HONOLULU (KHON2) — In 1990, a brave LGBTQ2+ couple stepped into the national spotlight as they demanded that their marriage be recognized by the State.
It was a long battle that ended today, Dec. 13, with President Biden signing the Respect for Marriage Act, 32 years later. The law now federally protects same-sex and interracial marriages.
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Dan Foley was the civil rights attorney who decided to take the case.
“I wasn’t proud at the time I filed it. But, they can be proud now. They changed public opinion. They changed the law. They set in motion inclusion for members of the LGBTQ community that their families are as valid as other families,” said Foley.
One half of the Hawai’i couple who dared to seek equality is Genora Dancel. She was invited to join President Biden in Washington D.C. as he signed the bill into law.
“We came together today, and it was just such a beautiful setting. I could feel the energy. It was just like the air was full of love and acceptance. It was party time,” Dancel said as she smiled.
The long road to gaining equality has been documented in a simple to understand timeline created by The Freedom to Marry in Hawai’i. Another comprehensive resource for understanding the three decades fight to ensure equality is the New York Times Bestselling book The Engagement written by researcher Sasha Issenberg.
Speaker of the House, Scott Saiki has been a long-time supporter of equality. He bravely championed the call for universal equality long before many other legislators did.
“Hawai’i was one of the first states to legalize same-sex marriage. We are grateful that the federal legislation will recognize Hawai’i’s laws relating to marriage equality and require other states to recognize them as well,” said Speaker Saiki.
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The Respect for Marriage Act now requires that all 50 states recognize same-sex marriages even if that state does not protect equal rights in its own laws. It also protects interracial marriages. The law does provide exceptions for religious expression freedoms for those who choose that.