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,
“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
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
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