The Hawaii state Senate yesterday approved civil unions legislation for the state. Approval by the state House, which last year passed similar legislation before it was vetoed by GOP Governor Lingle, is surely just a a formality. The new governor, Democrat Neil Abercrombie, has already promised to sign the legislation when (no longer if) it reaches his desk. Near-marriage, marriage in all but name, is on the way in Hawaii.
In my mind, only three questions remain:
- When will the new legislation take effect? How long will it be before Hawaii's same-sex couples will be able to tie the knot, and have their unions recognized by the state?
- Which will be the next state to follow suit?
- How long must we wait for "near-marriage" to become full marriage equality, including the name?
HONOLULU (AP) — The Hawaii Senate on Friday overwhelmingly approved civil unions for same-sex couples, a major step toward the proposal becoming law.
The state Senate voted 19-6 for the bill, which now goes to the state House of Representatives, where a nearly identical measure passed last year before it was vetoed by then-Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican.
But this year, Democrats who control the state Legislature said they want to quickly approve the bill and send it to new Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who has said he supports civil unions.
If the House and Abercrombie approve the measure, Hawaii would become the sixth state to grant some of the rights of marriage to same-sex couples without authorizing marriage itself. A civil unions bill also passed the Illinois Legislature last month.
Five states and the District of Columbia permit same-sex marriage.
"Let's get beyond this. Let's realize what the spirit of aloha is all about, which means including people no matter their color, no matter their gender, no matter their lifestyle," said Sen. Malama Solomon, D-Hilo-Honokaa.
The civil unions measure was the first bill to get final approval by the state Senate in this year's legislative session.
Supporters of civil unions wore rainbow-colored lei and cheered the vote, saying it was a victory for equal rights.
"It's time. I'm almost in tears," said Dan Abrahamsson of Honolulu, who was at the Capitol with his partner. "We are a minority, and it's very important that the Legislature protect our human rights and our civil rights."
Reaction from opponents was muted, with many acknowledging it seemed inevitable the bill would pass. They said civil unions erode the traditional family structure of one man and one woman.
"We're trying to re-engineer what the family looks like, and I don't believe the state has the authority to make those calls," said Mike McGuire of Ewa Beach, who watched the vote with his 8-year-old son.
People on both sides said civil unions could be a step toward legalizing same-sex marriage, possibly through a future court challenge. Hawaii's version of civil unions gives committed gay couples the same state rights as marriage.
- Civil Unions Advance, Hawaii (Queer Families)
- Hawaiian Senate Passes Civil Unions Bill (Lezgetreal)
- Hawaii Senate Committee Advances Civil Union Bill 3-2 (Towleroad)
- States to Watch for Marriage and Civil Union Legislation, Round 2(Bilerico)