Delaware and Hawaii will become the two latest states to recognize the relationships of gay and lesbian couples with civil unions on New Year's Day.

The civil unions laws take effect at the stroke of midnight Saturday in Hawaii and at 10AM on New Year's Day in Delaware.

The fight for gay couples to tie the knot was fairly straightforward in Delaware, where a bill went from introduction to passage in under 3 weeks. But gay rights advocates in Hawaii have been campaigning for recognition for decades.

In 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court was the first in the nation to declare a ban on marriage for gay couples unconstitutional, but the court remanded the case to the trial court. Before the case returned to the state's highest court, voters approved a constitutional amendment that gave lawmakers the right to decide on marriage, which it did by passing a gay marriage ban.

A civil unions law was narrowly approved by lawmakers in 2010, but then-Governor Linda Lingle, a Republican, vetoed the bill on the last possible day to announce her decision. She said she rejected the bill because it was too similar to marriage.

In February, Governor Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, happily signed the bill into law in front of a cheering crowd.

Neither state will see a flood of applicants on the first day the laws go into effect. That is because most government offices will be closed for the holiday.

However, a few exceptions are being made.

In Delaware, Lisa Goodman of Equality Delaware, the group which led the fight for the civil unions law, and her partner of 14 years, Drewry Fennell, head of the state Criminal Justice Council, will obtain their license from New Castle County Clerk of the Peace Ken Boulden – who will open Sunday to issue licenses by appointment but won't perform civil unions ceremonies – and have their union solemnized at the Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Wilmington at noon. The couple will be the first to enter a civil union in the state.

Four gay couples will enter civil unions in Hawaii at the stroke of midnight during a celebration being organized by a coalition of groups including Citizens for Equal Rights and Honolulu Pride.

Hawaii and Delaware join New Jersey, Illinois and Rhode Island in offering the union.