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Hawaii Law On Civil Unions Awaits Gov's Signature

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By Jason Beahm on May 03, 2010 12:45 PM

The state of Hawaii may join California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington in allowing same sex civil unions, which provide the legal benefits of being married to same sex couples without authorizing "marriage." Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. allow same sex marriage. Although the Hawaii law requires the signature of the governor, it has already been approved by the House and Senate. At the moment, Governor Linda Lingle has not indicated her position on the bill. 

The state has seen significant protests in response to potential legalization of same sex civil unions. The Hawaii House of Representatives voted 31-20 in favor of the legislation, which came as a bit of a surprise, as the bill had stalled and appeared it would not clear the House.  It was unexpectedly revived on the last day of this year's legislative session after all other items on the agenda had been covered. The Hawaii Senate passed the bill in January.

As MSNBC reported, in 1993 a Hawaii Supreme Court ruling nearly made Hawaii the first state to legally allow same sex marriage before voters in the state overwhelmingly approved the nation's first "defense of marriage" constitutional amendment in 1998.

Hawaiians have expressed themselves on both sides of the issue.

"Civil unions are a step down the very slippery slope toward legalizing same sex marriage," said Rachel Nakasaki, a Christian who believes traditional marriage between a man and a woman should be preserved.

"Hawaii is the Aloha State, and this vote shows that the greater community has love and acceptance for everyone," said supporter Van Law.

"Equality feels really good," said Suzanne King, who said Hawaii would recognize her Massachusetts marriage to her partner as a civil union if the bill becomes law. "It allows us to strengthen our family."

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