Friday, February 25, 2011

'Today is an amazing day'

Honolulu Star-Advertiser
February 24, 2011

Thinking back to 1998, Renae Hamilton says she can recall the bitter and divisive campaign she went through in trying to gain marriage rights for same-sex couples through the ballot box.

"You almost have flashbacks of it -- of how ugly it was -- in many ways, on every island," said Hamilton, 51, executive director of the YWCA of Kauai.

Yesterday, as she and her partner, Noelle Cambeilh, witnessed history with the governor's approval of a measure to legalize civil unions, Hamilton said those bitter memories can now be replaced with happier ones.

"It's, I think, a real affirmation and belief of: You don't give up -- things can happen," she said. "It's been a long road, but through people's efforts across the state, today is an amazing day."

The sentiment was shared by gay rights advocates and supporters yesterday as Gov. Neil Abercrombie affixed his signature to the legislation (the first bill signing of his career) approving civil unions and making Hawaii the seventh state to grant most of the same rights and benefits of traditional marriage to same-sex couples.

"For me, this bill represents equal rights for everyone in Hawaii -- everyone who comes here," Abercrombie said. "This is, to me, the essence of the aloha spirit."

A celebratory crowd of about 150 invited guests to Washington Place gave Abercrombie a standing ovation -- and cries of "Thank you, governor!" -- as he declared the Senate Bill 232 signed into law.