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