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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriages & civil unions in Hawaii

Lawsuit promised.
Civil unions bill passed by legislature.

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2010-JUL-08: The American Civil Liberties Union announces lawsuit:

Radio New Zealand International reported:

"The American Civil Liberties Union says it will take legal action now the Governor of Hawaii has vetoed a civil unions bill."

"The legal rights advocacy group says it will now pursue a law suit contending that the Hawaii Constitution requires the government to provide equal rights and benefits to couples of any sexual orientation, and prevents [sic] discrimination."

"Lois Perrin, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, says Governor Linda Lingle’s proposal that the issue be decided by voters through a ballot paper is disappointing.

'In essence what she’s done is she’s advocating for a constitutional amendment to strip people of their constitutional rights and that’s particularly disturbing. The constitution was put in place precisely to prevent that sort of majority discrimination and for an elected official to advocate for that is really disrespectful, not only to the constitution but to the fundamental rights of all of Hawaii’s people'."

"Lois Perrin says they would have preferred the bill to work its way through the political process, but they believe they have a strong legal case." 1

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2011-FEB: Senate passes new civil union Senate Bill 232:

By a 19 to 6 vote, (76%). the Hawaii Senate passed a civil unions bill.

Section 9 of the bill declares that civil unions are to have the same legal privileges as married couples except for one overwhelming exception: civil unions can only informally be referred to as marriages. It states:

"§9  Benefits, protections, and responsibilities.  Partners to a civil union lawfully entered into pursuant to this chapter shall have all the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities under law, whether derived from statutes, administrative rules, court decisions, the common law, or any other source of civil law, as are granted to those who contract, obtain a license, and are solemnized pursuant to chapter 572."

Section 10 allows the recognition of civil unions, domestic partnerships and marriages solemnized in other states and countries. However married same-sex couples will only be recognized as having been civil unionized:

"§10  Civil unions performed in other jurisdictions.  All unions entered into in other jurisdictions between two individuals not recognized under section 572-3 shall be recognized as civil unions; provided that the relationship meets the eligibility requirements of this chapter, has been entered into in accordance with the laws of that jurisdiction, and can be documented." 15

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2011-FEB-11: House passes civil unions bill:

On FEB-08, the House Judiciary Committee voted 11 to 2 (85%) to forward the civil unions bill to the full House for a vote. This followed almost five hours of testimony. Some of those supporting the bill wore rainbow-colored leis; they clapped and cheered after the vote.

By a 31 to 19 vote, (62%) the Hawaii House passed the civil unions bill. Representative Blake Oshiro (D), who is gay, said:

''It's all about being treated like everybody else.... Let today be that day where we move ever closer to justice for all.''

Gary Okabayashi of Honolulu, who has been in a loving, committed same-sex relationship for 32 years, said:

''This is a matter of civil rights. We would no longer feel that we’re second-class citizens. ... We would have a sense of pride and integrity because the state has finally recognized us as equal.''

Lenny Zimmerman of Waikiki, who has also been in a relationship for 32 years, testified:

"I can't imagine how empty the last 32 years of my life would have been without him, and yet, as far as the state of Hawaii is concerned, we are nothing more than roommates. I encourage the state of Hawaii to recognize our relationship for what it is. We are a family."

Opponents of civil unions, many of them Christians, told representatives they shouldn't redefine marriage and alter the concept of the one man-one woman traditional family.

Allen Cardines Jr., is a conservative Christian and the executive director for the Hawaii Family Forum -- a group that opposes recognition of same-sex relationships. He said:

"Civil unions are a desperate and dishonest attempt to force same-sex marriage on the state of Hawaii. They will not stop here with civil unions. They're really looking for same sex marriage. They know it; we know it; the people of Hawaii deserve to know it.''

Cardines may be unaware that, even if the bill is signed into law, same-sex couples will not be allowed to marry. Also, as far as we have been able to tell, the law would not force anyone to enter into a civil union. However, he is correct that civil unions are merely the next major step towards full same-sex marriage. Full equality for persons of all sexual orientations -- bisexual, heterosexual and homosexual -- is the goal.

Governor Neil Abercrombie, (D) has indicated he would sign the bill into law. 2 It was a promise that he made during his campaign.

One possible snag was that House:

"Representatives made several minor amendments before passing it, to clarify that civil union partners could file state taxes jointly and get divorced in family court."

"Senators could decide to accept the House's changes to the bill and send it to Abercrombie, or they could reject the amendments and negotiate their differences in a conference committee."3

2011-FEB-11: Senate passes the House version of the civil unions bill:

However, the Senate passed the House version by a vote of 18 to 5 on 2011-FEB-16

If signed into law by Governor This would make Hawaii the seventh state to grant same-sex couples essentially the same state's rights, privileges, and obligations as received by opposite-sex couples. This is in addition to the five states and the District of Columbia which provide for same-sex marriage.

If signed into law by Governor Neil Abercrombie (D), the legislation would take effect on 2012-JAN-01.

One interesting comment on the Joe My God website was posted by "mikenola:"

"The LGBT civil rights evolution will be the shortest in history compared to racism and sexism." 4

Mikenola may be wrong: the transgender/transsexual civil rights evolution may turn out to be the shortest.

Back in mid-2010, The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy issued approximately the twentieth study of the effect of civil unions on Hawaii. They determined that a civil union law would motivate between 569 and 1,285 same-sex couples to come to Hawaii over the next four years to enter into civil unions. The couples would spend between 4 and 9 million dollars; guests would spend between 18 and 40 million. 193 to 333 new jobs would be created in the state. 5

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Site navigation:

Home > Religious info. > Basic > Marriage > Same-sex marriage > HI > here

Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > HI > here

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Hawaii governor faces legal action over civil union," Radio New Zealand, 2010-JUL-08, at:
  2. "Hawaii one step closer to civil unions for gay, lesbian couples," LastWord, 2011-FEB-13, at:
  3. "Hawaii civil unions bill heads to full House vote," Associated Press, 2010-FEB-11, at:
  4. Mikenola, "Congrats Hawaii! can't wait for the signing," posting to Joe my God blog, 2011-FEB-12, at:
  5. Naomi G. Goldbert, et al., "Potential Impact of HB444 the State of Hawai’i," The Williams Institute, 2010-JUN-14, at: This is a PDF file.

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Copyright © 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2010-JUL-07
Latest update and review: 2011-FEB-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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