11/13/2013 01:23 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Hawaii Says 'Aloha' to Same-Sex Marriage and Equality


Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie will sign a bill today legalizing gay marriage, making Hawaii the 15th state to allow same-sex marriages, and allowing thousands of gay couples living in Hawaii and tourists to marry in the Aloha State starting Dec. 2. Hawaii, which is a huge tourist destination to begin with, is expected to see a boost in tourism of $217 million over the next three years, according to estimates from the University of Hawaii.

Back in the Midwest, Illinois is set to become the 16th state to allow same-sex couples to unite in matrimony when Gov. Pat Quinn signs state measure S.B. 10 on Nov. 20, as is expected.

It's remarkable how much progress our country has made in the fight for equality. Fifteen years ago, Hawaii and Alaska became the first U.S. states to pass constitutional amendments against same-sex marriage. And in this short period of time, despite massive opposition from the right, Americans are finally doing the right thing and starting to recognize everyone as equals. While we've come a long way, there's still a lot of work left to be done. Until all 50 states legalize gay marriage, we must keep fighting on in the battle for equality.

Harvey Milk, the martyr in the gay community who was called "the most famous and most significantly open LGBT official ever elected in the United States," said, "All men are created equal. No matter how hard they try, they can never erase those words. That is what America is about."

Unfortunately, America has a long history of discrimination. In 1857, the Supreme Court ruled that an African American could not be a citizen. Lincoln freed the slaves, and it still took another 100-plus years for blacks to be treated like equals under the law. The point is that when it comes to all our country's claims of exceptionalism, we have some pretty slapdash history as it relates to human rights.

Critical thinking on gay marriage is extremely simple and straightforward. There are three things to understand.

First, regardless of what you think of any LGBT person, they are our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers, our children's teachers and many others and should be treated with dignity and respect. If you can't find it in your heart to treat them like you would treat anyone else, you're exhibiting hatred, discrimination and bigotry.

Second, same-sex marriage is not a fad or a temporary movement, and with almost 16 states supporting it, it's only a matter of time before every state follows and welcomes the LGBT movement into our culture and allows people to live their lives on their own terms.

Third, does it really matter? Does it really matter who someone is attracted to? Does it really matter if a man wants to be with another man, or a woman with another woman? The main premise of marriage is to take two individuals who love one another, and create a union of shared hopes, dreams and aspirations that will hopefully last a lifetime. Denying marriage to two individuals who love each other is to deny them a fundamental freedom. Gay men and women possess the same potential and desire for sustained loving and lasting relationships as their heterosexual counterparts. As Aristotle said, "Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies." Does it really matter if those two bodies are two men or two women? Love is love.

President Obama said, "Whenever freedom and equality are affirmed, our country becomes stronger. By giving loving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry if they choose, Hawaii exemplifies the values we hold dear as a nation."

It's time for other states to step up to the plate and stop living in the dark ages and hiding behind the Bible or constitutional amendments. We must follow the example of states like Hawaii and treat everyone as equals. The conservatives can kick and scream all they want, but it's only a matter of time before all of America, and the world, respects and honors same-sex marriage.