Hawaii State House Passes Landmark Bill to Protect Same-Sex Couples
February 11, 2011 by Tony Wagner, Western Regional Field Director
Today the Hawaii State House passed SB 232 SD1 HD1 by a 31-19 vote. The bill provides that equal rights and responsibilities of married couples in Hawaii be afforded to thousands of non-married couples in the state – including same-sex couples.
“Today is a great day for the people of Hawaii,” said Alan Spector, co-chair for Equality Hawaii. “The action taken by the House today sends a strong message that our state recognizes the importance of moving towards equality. Providing equal rights to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is long overdue and we thank all those who have stood with us to make this day a reality.”
After minor changes were made in the House, the bill now heads to back to the Senate for agreement on the amendments before heading to Gov. Neil Abercrombie for his signature. SB 232 SD1 passed the Hawaii Senate on January 28, by a 19-6 vote. Except for some technical corrections and implementation amendments, the bill is identical to HB 444, the civil unions bill passed in 2010. That bill passed the House and Senate with near supermajorities before Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed it. No override vote was held.
“The Human Rights Campaign congratulates the Hawaii House of Representatives for overwhelmingly supporting the equal dignity and respect of Hawaii’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families,” said HRC president Joe Solmonese. “No child of a same-sex family should have to grow up with less protections or thinking their family is less legitimate or loving than others.”
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 www.hrcbackstory.org/category/states/hawaii/.
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.
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