Couples across Hawaii began exchanging vows as the clock struck midnight on Monday, signaling the official start of marriage equality in the state.
"We have lived our lives as first-class citizens who are law-abiding, taxpaying, and contributing members of the community," said one of the couples, Donna Gedge and Monica Montgomery, in a prepared statement. "Yet we are legally recognized as second-class citizens as we do not have Federal rights. Getting married means that we will have the first-class legal status as well as the rights and benefits that only marriage will afford us."
Lawmakers passed marriage equality in November, after Gov. Neil Abercrombie called a special session specifically to address the matter.
The move is a boon for equal rights in the state, but it may also be a great move for Hawaii's economy, according to Sumner Lacroix, an economist at the University of Hawaii.
"Same sex couples will be attracted to Hawaii for the same reasons that opposite sex couples are attracted to Hawaii," Lacroix told NPR. "It's the great weather, it's the warm water, it's the beautiful scenery. And it's also the aloha spirit."
Lacroix estimates that gay marriage will boost tourism in Hawaii by $217 million over the next three years.