HRC Blog

Breaking: Hawaii Civil Unions Bill Heads to Governor for Signature

Hawaii marriage equality Today the Hawaii legislature approved civil unions for the second time in 10 months, as the state Senate agreed to House amendments. 

The House passed bill SB 232, SD1 HD1 by a 31-19 vote on Friday.  The bill now heads to Governor Neil Abercrombie for his signature.  Governor Abercrombie has said he will sign the bill. “We honor and thank the legislature today for their commitment to equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Hawaii," said Alan Spector, co-chair of Equality Hawaii. 

“For the second time in less than a year, legislators have dedicated themselves to providing dignity and respect to all families in the Aloha State. Finally, Hawaii families that are barred from being married will have the same rights and responsibilities under state law as their colleagues, friends, neighbors and other family members,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.

When Hawaii’s civil unions law is signed, the state will join thirteen other states plus Washington, D.C. with laws providing an expansive form of state-level relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples. Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington D.C. provide marriage to same-sex couples under state law. New York and Maryland recognize out-of-jurisdiction same-sex marriages, but do not provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples in state. Five other states—California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington —provide same-sex couples with access to almost of all the state level benefits and responsibilities of marriage, through either civil unions or domestic partnerships. A new law providing for civil unions in Illinois will take effect on June 1st. Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, and Wisconsin provide gay and lesbian couples with limited rights and benefits, not all rights provided to married couples. An attorney general opinion and subsequent court ruling in Rhode Island resulted in limited recognition of out-of-jurisdiction marriages of same-sex couples. California recognized marriage for same-sex couples between June and November of 2008, before voters approved Proposition 8, which purports to amend the state constitution to prohibit marriage equality. Couples married during that window remain married under California law, but all other same-sex couples can only receive a domestic partnership within the state. The state will recognize out-of-jurisdiction same-sex marriages that occurred before November 5, 2008 as marriages and those that occurred on or after November 5, 2008 as similar to domestic partnerships.

Same-sex couples do not receive federal rights and benefits in any state. View our electronic map showing where marriage equality stands in the states. The Human Rights Campaign and Equality Hawaii have worked closely together since 2008 to build both public and legislative support for civil unions.  Through this joint effort, tens of thousands of phone calls, emails, postcards and handwritten letters have been sent to legislators urging them to approve this legislation.  More on our work in Hawaii is at Equality Hawaii, our Hawaii work summary and our Hawaii blog archive.

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