In the year since Hawaii enacted its civil union law, more than 700 gay and lesbian lesbian couples have tied the knot.

Couples who enter a civil union are given most of the state-level protections of marriage.

Saralyn Morales was one of the first to take advantage of the law when in took into effect on January 1, 2012.

“The biggest benefit for me was the name recognition and being able to change my last name and now my last name is Morales and the other thing was to be able to add her onto my medical insurance,” Morales told Hawaii News Now.

The struggle for legal recognition in Hawaii started more than two decades ago.

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 they 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.

That year, Democratic Governor Neil Abercrombie defeated former Lieutenant Governor James “Duke” Aiona, Jr., who supported Lingle's decision to veto the legislation.

Abercrombie, a Democrat, happily signed the bill into law in front of a cheering crowd in February, 2011.

Much like other states which offer civil unions – Illinois, New Jersey, Delaware and Rhode Island – Hawaii is expected to consider legalizing full marriage for gay couples.