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Hawaii lawmakers have authority to pass marriage-equality bill, state AG says

HONOLULU -- The state's Attorney General said today that lawmakers do not have to amend the Hawaii Constitution in order to pass marriage-equality legislation.

The legal opinion clears the way for the Hawaii Legislature to once again take up the same-gender marriage bill. Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat who supports marriage equality, has called a special session on the issue, which will begin on Monday, Oct. 28.

Attorney General David Louie issued his ruling today in response to a request from state Sen. Les Ihara, a Democrat who holds a leadership position with the majority party. Ihara wanted to know if lawmakers could approve marriage equality without having to remove Constitutional Amendment 2, banning gay marriage, which was approved in 1998.

Hawaii lawmakers passed a civil unions bill in 2010, but Republican Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed the measure in July of that year.

In January of this year, lawmakers introduced a marriage-equality bill that had widespread support, but the Legislature adjourned for the session without taking a vote on the matter. Gov. Abercrombie upheld his vow to call a special session.