The Hawaii Senate on Wednesday approved
a bill that offers gay and lesbian couples benefits and
responsibilities nearly identical to those of marriage, Reuters
Senators approved the civil unions
legislation, which cleared the House on Friday, with an 18 to 5 vote,
sending the bill to Governor Neil Abercrombie for his signature.
Abercrombie has previously pledged to
sign the bill into law.
“I have always believed that civil
unions respect our diversity, protect people's privacy, and reinforce
our core values of equality and aloha,” the Democratic governor
said in a statement. “For me this bill represents equal rights for
all the people of Hawaii.”
Lawmakers approved a nearly identical
bill last year, but then-Governor Linda Lingle, a Republican, vetoed
the measure after much public hand-wringing on the issue.
Gay activists praised the measure.
“I have a great sense of pride for
the Legislature that was able to see the big picture of equality for
Hawaii,” said Tara O'Neill, president of Pride Alliance.
Hawaii becomes the third state to offer
the union behind New Jersey and Illinois, whose
governor signed a similar measure into law last month. A
similar bill has been introduced in Colorado.