Civil unions bill approved by Hawaii legislature

Thursday, February 17th, 2011 By

Same sex wedding

The state of Hawaii has granted civil unions for same sex couples. Image: Giovanni Dall'Orto/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY

The Hawaii state legislature has passed a bill granting same sex couples the right of entering into civil unions. Hawaii governor Neil Abercrombie has already committed to signing the bill into law. Hawaii will join several other states in offering legal partnership rights to same sex couples.

Neil Abercrombie pledges to sign civil unions bill into law

The governor of the state of Hawaii, Neil Abercrombie, has pledged to sign a bill granting same sex couples the right to form civil unions, according to Reuters. The newly elected governor campaigned on a promise to sign any legislation granting civil unions for same sex partners, maintaining that marriage rights, domestic partnerships or civil unions help to “reinforce our values of equality and aloha.” Last year, similar legislation went to the desk of former governor Linda Lingle, who vetoed it. Lingle said the bill was the result of a “flawed” legal process and any issue that large should be dealt with via popular referendum, not the legislature.

States that allow same-sex partnership rights

Currently, five states and Washington D.C., allow marriage for same sex couples. New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa and Washington D.C. currently grant full marriage rights to same sex couples. New Jersey currently allows for civil unions. Hawaii will be followed by Illinois in recognizing civil unions, according to Wikipedia. Same-sex domestic partnerships are recognized in Oregon, Maryland, Washington, Maine and California. However, the battle over California and same sex marriage is ongoing. Proposition 8 was overturned in court, but the issue is on hold until the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals renders a decision in the appeal. The federal government does not recognize same sex marriages because of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Legal difference between marriage and civil union

The differences between a marriage, a civil union and a domestic partnership can be confusing. The federal government recognizes 1,138 statutes that deal with rights and responsibilities of heterosexual marriage, which apply in states recognizing same sex marriage. Civil unions may offer most of these rights to same sex couples, and domestic partnerships can as well. However, the rights afforded to same sex couples depend on which state the couple resides in. Civil unions and domestic partnerships can be marriage in all but name, or they can do little other than legally acknowledging that two people have a relationship.

Sources

Reuters

Wikipedia on same sex marriage status by state

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