State Rep. K. Mark Takai said Tuesday that he supports marriage equality.
Takai, who had voted against civil unions in 2011, had said last week that he was still undecided.
Takai is running in the Democratic primary for Congress in urban Honolulu's 1st Congressional District, so his vote will likely be closely watched by Democratic primary voters.
The four other declared candidates in the primary -- state Sen. Will Espero, Honolulu City Councilman Stanley Chang, Honolulu City Councilman Ikaika Anderson, and activist Kathryn Xian -- support marriage equality. State Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, who is considering a campaign, has been an opponent.
Takai's conversion puts the Star-Advertiser's vote count on the gay marriage bill at 28 to 17, with six lawmakers undecided.
In a statement, Takai said he has wrestled with the issue.
There have been few issues that I have grappled with more than same sex marriage in Hawaii. I have wrestled with my thoughts, my values, my faith and what I believe to be the best way forward. The world has changed – and so have I.
Since the ruling earlier this summer by the U.S. Supreme Court on Article III of the Defense of Marriage Act, this issue has had wide-spread attention in Hawaii and throughout the nation. Indeed, as elected leaders from President Obama to our Congressional delegation in Hawaii have stated their own positions, I’ve listened carefully.
I have served alongside gays and lesbians as a member of the Hawaii National Guard. The leadership taken by the Joint Chiefs of Staff has emboldened me to be a leader for Hawaii. The Servicemembers who I have worked with during my 14-years in the National Guard have underscored the importance of treating everyone fairly. And time and again, our men and women in uniform have risen to the challenge as society has changed around them.
Hawaii citizens, like most Americans, increasingly support marriage equality for our gay and lesbian friends, neighbors, colleagues and families. And through my own soul searching and thinking about this issue, I have come to agree.
I have heard from faith leaders and congregants on both sides of this issue, and I deeply respect their own deliberations and the strong feelings that so many have with regard to the marriage question. I have come to my own decision after careful consideration, in concert with my own values and faith, and it is my deepest hope that once this matter is concluded, we can set aside whatever differences remain and work together for Hawaii.
But leadership is about making tough calls, and today I stand firm in mine: There are no good reasons to continue to prevent every Hawaii resident from exercising his or her right to marry the person he or she loves.
It’s time that laws in Hawaii reflect the Aloha spirit and I will join with the majority in the State House to pass the marriage equality bill.