Wasting no time within days of signing a marriage equality bill into law, Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie made a bid on Friday for gay and lesbian couples across the U.S. mainland to travel to the Aloha State to tie the knot, keenly aware of the boon same-sex marriage could be for his state’s tourism industry.
“For those listening in, Hawaii welcomes you!” Abercrombie exclaimed in an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress, speaking directly to gay and lesbian listeners. “There are several states where you can get married. But I think I can say without fear of contradiction, ‘Paradise awaits.’ We’ll be happy to welcome you. And if you do get married in another state, think about honeymooning in Hawaii. “
Abercrombie on Hawaii's marriage equality victory:
Abercrombie, who spearheaded the marriage equality bill, calling a special session for the vote, said he was proud of Hawaii’s role as a leader on the issue. In 1993 Hawaii’s Supreme Court was the first to rule that that denying marriage to same-sex couples violated their constitutional rights, sending a gay marriage case back to a trial court for review. A backlash ensued, leading to many state bans on gay marriage — including in Hawaii — and to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal law which was stuck down by the U.S. Supreme Court last June.
“Part of the sense of Aloha that we try to live by is the sense that our diversity should define us, not divide us,” he said. “Persevere in extending our humanity to one another.”
Before resigning in 2010 to run for governor, Abercrombie represented Hawaii’s first district in the U.S House of Representatives for almost 20 years. He criticized Republicans in the House, where Speaker John Boehner says he will not bring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) up for a vote after it passed the Senate two weeks ago.
Abercrombie on ENDA:
“I don’t quite understand this,” Abercrombie said about the bill which would ban employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity. “If you want to just put it in strictly philosophical terms -- political philosophy -- the most conservative`position is that people should be hired on the basis of their contribution and their merit. What difference does it make what you’re sexual orientation is? Over time it’s become clear the Republican Party… [is] not going to be the party of any of those who support civil rights for everyone.”
Abercrombie also weighed in on openly lesbian Hawaii State Representative Jo Jordan, who voted against the marriage equality bill, becoming the first openly gay or lesbian legislator in the U.S. to vote against gay marriage. Abercrombie had appointed the Democrat to fill a vacated seat in 2011. She has since been elected in her district, which overwhelmingly supports marriage equality, as does Jordan herself. She has said she voted against the bill because she didn’t believe the religious exemptions were strong enough.
Abercrombie on Jordan's anti-gay marriage vote:
“She was a lonely voice in this," Abercrombie said, noting that he didn't appoint her believing she would be in "lockstep" with his positions. “I understand it. I disagree with her. She had her reservations about [the bill] sufficient to cause her to vote no. And I'm going to take her at her word. My job now is not to seek retribution or go over the validity of what the motivation was for people’s votes, but to work with them all."