Hawaii House passes civil-union bill
The Hawaii House of Representatives passed a civil-union bill by a vote of 31-19 on Feb. 11.
It grants civil-union couples the same rights and responsibilities that come with marriage.
The measure already passed the Senate by a vote of 19-6 but will need to return there for approval of minor changes made in the House.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie has promised to sign the bill into law once it clears the Senate.
"Today is a great day for the people of Hawaii," said Equality Hawaii Co-Chair Alan Spector. "The action taken by the House today sends a strong message that our state recognizes the importance of moving towards equality."
Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson commented: "Hawaii's Legislature acted to acknowledge the state's loving and committed gay and lesbian couples and their families and to provide them a measure of protections under the law -- protections of particular importance during these tough economic times. This is a victory for all families, because it strengthens the lives of many couples and their loved ones while taking nothing away from anyone else."
Including Hawaii and Illinois, where a civil-union law will come into force in June, 14 states and Washington, D.C., now have expansive civil-union laws, allow same-sex marriage, or recognize other jurisdictions' same-sex marriages (as marriages). Same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C. In addition, New York and Maryland recognize same-sex marriages from elsewhere in the nation or world. Civil-union or domestic-partnership laws that grant all state-level rights of marriage are in place in California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.
In Colorado, Hawaii, Maine and Wisconsin, there are laws that grant same-sex couples some of the rights of marriage. In Rhode Island, an attorney general opinion and a subsequent court ruling have resulted in limited recognition of same-sex marriages entered into elsewhere in the nation or world.
California is a further case unto itself. Same-sex marriage was legal from June to November 2008, when voters amended the state constitution via Proposition 8 to put a stop to it. The couples who married then are still legally married, as are other same-sex couples who live in California and got married anywhere in the world before Prop 8 passed. Gay couples who married somewhere else after Prop 8 passed, or who marry elsewhere in the future, receive every state-level right and obligation of marriage in California except for the legal right to call their marriage a "marriage" when they are in California. They are not recognized under the state's domestic partnership law, but rather are married couples who are denied use of the word "marriage."
Eleven other nations allow same-sex couples to marry -- Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Mexico (where same-sex marriages are allowed only in the capital city but are recognized nationwide).