Hawaii civil-union bill sent to supportive governor

A civil-union bill granting Hawaii same-sex couples all the state-level rights, benefits, responsibilities and obligations of marriage cleared the Legislature on Feb. 16 and headed to Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who strongly supports it.

The final measure passed the Senate 18–5 after passing the House 31–19.

“We’re here thanks to years of hard work by community members, people of faith and civic and political leaders,” said Lambda Legal Marriage Project Director Jennifer Pizer. “Our plaintiffs and thousands of other affected families can sleep easier knowing their legal system fully covers them.”

Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state in July 2010 after then-Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed a civil-union bill. They argued that the veto amounted to discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“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 Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.

Six other states have laws like Hawaii’s: California, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington. Five states —  Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont — and Washington, D.C., let gay couples marry. Five states have gay union laws that extend some but not all rights of marriage: Colorado, Hawaii (an older law), Maine, Maryland and Wisconsin. Four states do not let gay couples marry but recognize them as married if they get married somewhere else: Maryland, New Mexico, New York and Rhode Island.

In California, same-sex marriage was legal from June to November 2008, when voters amended the state constitution via Proposition 8 to put a stop to it. The couples who married then are still legally married, as are other same-sex couples who live in California and got married anywhere in the world before Prop 8 passed. Gay couples who married somewhere else after Prop 8 passed, or who marry elsewhere in the future, receive every state-level right and obligation of marriage in California except for the legal right to call their marriage a “marriage” when they are in
California. They are not recognized under the state’s domestic partnership law, but rather are married couples who are denied use of the word “marriage.”

Eleven other nations allow same-sex couples to marry — Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Mexico (where same-sex marriages are allowed only in the
capital city but are recognized nationwide). Numerous other nations have same-sex civil-union laws that extend some or all marriage rights and obligations.

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