HONOLULU — The Hawaii Civil Unions Bill has made it out of committee by a vote of 3-2 and now advances to the full Senate.
The measure is expected to pass easily and Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a gay rights supporter, said he would sign the civil unions bill if passed by the Legislature.
The bill is nearly identical to the measure the Hawaii Legislature passed early last year that would have granted same-sex couples the state rights of marriage, but it was vetoed in July by then Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican.
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The state Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday passed a bill to provide civil unions, offering benefits and responsibilities identical to marriage, for unmarried couples.
The proposal has the support of a majority of lawmakers and new Gov. Neil Abercrombie. So, the goal of supporters is to pass the controversial legislation early in the season so it does not become a distraction or get delayed as other issues take lawmakers’ attention.
The Hawaii measure will next go to a vote in the full Senate, which approved a similar measure last year on an 18-7 vote, before going to the state House for consideration.
If passed into law, Hawaii would become the sixth state to grant essentially the same rights of marriage to same-sex couples, albeit without authorizing marriage itself.