Civil Unions for Gay Couples
The Rainbow State, and birthplace of Barack Obama, is a state where many would argue that tolerance is a general quality of the people. In some ways, this is true regarding gay rights.
The state of Hawaii recognizes civil unions and reciprocal beneficiary relationships. Here, civil unions are equal to marriage in terms of rights and responsibilities while those of reciprocal beneficiary relationships are limited.
Despite almost becoming the first state to legalize gay marriage, now, it is banned by state law but gay marriages from other places are recognized as civil unions in Hawaii.
The Long Battle
A twenty-year court battle and two years of protests and public testimonies led Hawai’i’s Senate to vote (18-5) and pass the bill allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. This is the first law Governor Abercrombie had the opportunity to enact. It went into effect January 1, 2012 and Governor Abercrombie, who was happy to sign it, said he has “always believed that civil unions respect our diversity, protect people’s privacy and reinforce our core values of equality and aloha.”
A State (Sometimes) Divided
The twenty years of fighting for gay marriage portray the divided sentiments of voters. In 1993, Hawaii almost legalized gay marriage because of a state Supreme Court ruling but it did not go through. Seven months before the civil union bill was passed, former Governor Linda Lingle (R) vetoed a similar bill claiming that it was the same thing as same-sex marriage, just under a different name.
Now that same-sex civil unions are an option for gay couples, those who oppose gay marriage are convinced that supporters will take the matter back to court arguing that gay couples are not being treated equally. Perhaps the battle for same-sex marriage rights is not quite over.
- Can same-sex couples marry in Hawaii? No.
- Can same-sex couples enter into civil unions? Yes.
- Are marriages between gay couples that were performed elsewhere recognized in Hawaii? Yes, but they are considered civil unions, on the state level in Hawaii, means they have the same rights as marriages.