HONOLULU — The Hawaii State Senate on Friday passed a civil unions bill that would grant same-sex and heterosexual partners essentially the same protections, rights and benefits currently extended to married couples.
The bill says unmarried, unrelated couples may have a judge or clergy solemnize their civil union, which will provide the same responsibilities and benefits of marriage under state law, reports KITV-TV.
The bill passed the full Senate 19-6.
The bill is nearly identical to a bill last year, only to be vetoed by then Gov. Linda Lingle, a Repblican.
Hawaii’s new Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie has promised to sign civil unions legislation if approved, calling it a simple issue of civil rights.
After Friday’s vote, the measure moves to the state House, where, leaders said they expect it to pass by a wide margin.
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.