HONOLULU — For Donna Gedge and Monica Montgomery, the path to becoming a legally recognized lesbian couple took 33 years. One hour after midnight Hawaiian time in the New Year, their dream became a reality as they and another couple became the first same-sex couples to enter into civil unions in Hawaii under a new law that took effect with the New Year.
The dual ceremonies were held in a private residence on the island of Oahu with around 90 people in attendance.
The gathering waited for the civil union applications to become available on the Internet after midnight. When they finally came on-line, it took each couple about ten minutes to complete the forms. Then, it took another five minutes for each of the three civil union officiants to apply for their licenses to perform the ceremony. And then there was a short delay because of an in-house computer glitch.
But the couples were ready when, one hour after midnight, the ceremony began, led by Rev. Kyle Lovett of the Church of the Crossroads, Rev. Jonipher Kwong of the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu, and Rev. Pam Vessels. The couples exchanged vows and rings.
Then, the three officiants said, in unison, “We now pronounce that you are legally joined as partners in life.” The celebrants cheered as the couples kissed.
Hawaii’s civil unions law grants same-sex and heterosexual couples the same rights, benefits and responsibilities as marriage under state law.
“It represents the culmination of almost 20 years of an effort to achieve equality in Hawaii,” said guest Valerie Smith, co-chair of Equality Hawaii. “It’s one step close to full marriage equality.”
The other same-sex couple who participated in the celebration of the rites, Gary Bradley and Paul Perry have been together for three and-a-half years.
Under Hawaii’s new law, not only are the four same-sex couples legally recognized in the state, any same-sex couple legally married or in a civil union in any other state or country now also have those relationships legally recognized in Hawaii as well.
With Hawaii and Delaware joining the list Sunday, five states now recognize same-sex civil unions, while six other states — New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, and Vermont — and the District of Columbia, allow same-sex marriage.