HONOLULU — Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed same-sex civil unions into law Wednesday, granting same-sex and heterosexual couples the same rights, benefits and responsibilities as marriage under state law.
“E Komo Mai: It means all are welcome,” Abercrombie said in remarks before signing the bill into law.
“This signing today of this measure says to all of the world that they are welcome. That everyone is a brother or sister here in paradise.”
“The legalization of civil unions in Hawaii represents in my mind equal rights for all people,” he said.
Just seven months ago, former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed a virtually identical bill passed in the state legislature last year.
Lingle characterized civil unions as same-sex marriage by another name.
“This bill has been a long time coming for committed couples in Hawaii who have been denied the basic right to take care of their families,” said Laurie Temple, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii.
Approval of the bill also brings an end to a lawsuit filed by gay couples against the state last year after Lingle’s veto, the ACLU said.
Hawaii has figured prominently in the national gay rights movement’s efforts since the early 1990s, when the state Supreme Court nearly legalized gay marriage.