Hawaii state Senate approves civil unions; Governor pledges to sign bill


HONOLULU — The Hawaii state Senate on Wednesday voted to approve civil unions for same-sex couples.

The bill now goes to Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who supports civil unions and has promised to sign the bill into law.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports:

“I have always believed that civil unions respect our diversity, protect people’s privacy, and reinforce our core values of equality and aloha,” Abercrombie said in a statement after the vote.

“I appreciate all the time and effort invested by those who shared their thoughts and concerns regarding civil unions in Hawaii. This has been an emotional process for everyone involved, but that process is now ended. Everyone has been heard; all points of view respected.

“For me, this bill represents equal rights for all the people of Hawaii,” Abercrombie said.

The Senate vote was 18-5. On Friday, the full House passed the bill by a vote of 31-19.

The bill would allow same-sex and heterosexual couples to enter into civil unions and receive the same rights, benefits and responsibilities as marriage under state law.

The governor has 10 legislative days to review it. His office said details of a bill signing ceremony are forthcoming.

The measure will go into effect January 1, 2012.

It is virtually identical to a bill passed by the Legislature last year but vetoed by then-Gov. Linda Lingle (R), who characterized civil unions as same-sex marriage by another name.

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