Hawaii set to recognize its first same-sex civil unions on January 1


HONOLULU — In a private ceremony set for just after midnight on Sunday, January 1, four same sex couples will enter into civil unions as the state’s new civil unions law takes effect.

Hawaiian Democratic Governor Neil Abercrombie had signed the civil unions’ bill into law last February 23, making the state the fifth in the nation to recognize same-sex civil unions. While civil unions are not considered marriage, the legally binding agreement provides same-sex couples in Hawaii with many of the same legal rights and benefits of marriage.

Local Honolulu television station KHON-TV reported that one of the four couples taking part in the New Year’s Eve event has been together for thirty-three years.

Tambry Young and Suzanne King, two women who were married in Massachusetts in 2009, are helping the couples coordinate the event as members of the CU in Hawaii 2012 Planning Committee.

“They’ve seen some of their friends pass away before this actually could be enacted, so it’s an important step for them,” said Young. “The Department of Health did a tremendous job in getting this system up and running. So basically what happens is twelve midnight the system goes live.”

“We can help them kind of walk through that to make sure that they have everything up and running … I think everybody’s realizing that this is the next step in our evolution to get full equality and I think everyone’s taking it serious,” said Young.

For both Young and King, January 1 will also mark a turning point in their thirty year relationship. Their marriage in Massachusetts will also be recognized as a civil union in Hawaii.

Young and King were forced to terminate their reciprocal benefits agreement in Hawaii before the state could recognize their partnership as a civil union.

For the past ten months the State Health Department has been drawing up plans for an online application process for same sex couples who want to take advantage of Hawaii’s new law.

Other state agencies have also been updating their rules and regulations in order to make certain that civil union couples have the same rights as heterosexual married couples.

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