HONOLULU — Hawaii moved another step closer to granting civil unions for same-sex couples.
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.
With the necessary votes in both chambers and a new Democratic governor who has voiced support for civil unions, lawmakers have moved swiftly to take advantage of the consensus so they can move on to other, less polarizing matters this session.
Lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee heard nearly five hours of testimony in the state Capitol auditorium yesterday as supporters and opponents raised familiar arguments for and against the measure.
Last month, the state Senate passed the civil unions bill by a vote of 19-6.
But because of amendments attached in the House at the recommendation of the state Attorney General’s Office, the bill will go back to the Senate once passed in the full House before making its way to the Governor for his signature.
The amendments to the bill were added to ensure that the relationships are recognized in the tax code and are under the jurisdiction of family court.
Hawaii’s new Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie has promised to sign the civil unions legislation if approved, calling it a simple issue of civil rights.