Civil Unions Supporters Praise Passage of historic Hawaii Law

February 23, 2011, 3:32 PM HST · Updated February 23, 3:32 PM
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By Wendy Osher

Gov. Neil Abercrombie. File photo by Wendy Osher.

Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie today put his signature on the state’s Civil Unions bill, effectively legalizing unions for same-sex couples.

“The legalization of civil unions in Hawai’i is long overdue,” stated Gov. Abercrombie. “People have worked long and hard work for this day. This is a prime example of exercising civic courage. It is about doing what is right, no matter how difficult, no matter how much opposition,” he said.

Act 1 of the 2011 Legislative session will take effect on January 1, 2012.  Supporters of the measure praised its passage calling the action historic.

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“Across the nation, we are seeing steps toward providing committed couples with the security of knowing they can take care of each other, and that their relationships are recognized in the eyes of the law,” said James Esseks, Director of the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project.

Meantime, Congresswoman Mazie Hirono of Maui called it landmark day for Hawaii. “I want to recognize the hard work of Hawaii’s lawmakers and grass roots organizations that made this moment possible. This legislation is about equality and providing basic civil rights and protections to all people of Hawaii. I appreciate the legislature’s action on this measure and share Governor Abercrombie’s respect for our island’s diversity and constitutional rights,” said Hirono.

The measure specifically grants same- and different-sex couples the same rights, responsibilities, benefits and protections already extended to legally married couples, but stops short of granting marriages to same sex couples.

“This bill has been a long time coming for committed couples in Hawaii who have been denied the basic right to take care of their families,” said Laurie Temple, staff attorney for the ACLU of Hawaii. “While we continue to work to achieve the freedom to marry for all couples, we commend the Legislature and Governor Abercrombie for taking a stand against baseless discrimination by passing this bill,” said Temple.

The bill stops short of granting same-sex couples the freedom to marry, but grants committed same and different-sex couples the rights, responsibilities, benefits and protections that Hawaii law provides to married couples.

Signing of the Civil Unions bill comes on the heels of an 18-5 state senate vote in favor of the legislation.  At the time, Gov. Abercrombie said he has always believed that civil unions respect diversity, protect privacy, and reinforce core values of equality. He said for him, the bill represents equal rights for all the people of Hawaii.

Gov. Abercrombie added today, “Civil unions respect our diversity, protect people’s privacy, and reinforce our core values of equality and aloha.”

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