Hawaii’s Governor Abercrombie signs civil unions bill

Timothy Kincaid

February 23rd, 2011

While our quest for marriage equality has a great many contributing historical events, the current nationwide battle can be traced to 1991, when three same-sex couples sued the Hawaii Director of Health for marriage licenses. Supportive court decisions spooked the public and anti-gay activists whipped up hysteria to raise funds, rally the voters, and slap down the “militant homosexual activists.”

And, to be honest, prior to that time a great many of us never considered that our relationships could be equal in the sight of the law. We were conditioned to our own inferiority and few questioned the heterosexist presumption that marriage, by definition, was “one man, one woman.” Hawaii’s legal wranglings first led our community to collectively question just why we should not be allowed to fully join society as spouses on an equal basis with our brothers and sisters.

It did not go well in Hawaii. A Catholic/Mormon coalition ran a campaign of bigotry and deception and the Hawaiian people voted to change their constitution to allow the legislature to define marriage (this was their first effort and they did not yet go for defining marriage itself in a constitutional amendment). The end result was that for the past few decades, Hawaii has had a useless and pointless “reciprocal benefits” scheme by which you and your life partner (or your bowling partner) could assign each other a few limited benefits.

But for a while, the myth prevailed. More than a few times in the 90’s I would hear someone say, “but can’t we get married in Hawaii?” And the dream prevailed to the point where we currently have five legal marriage states (and DC) with three more expected to join this year.

Which makes today a special day. Today Hawaii joins six states which provide the full benefits of marriage under another process (and five states and DC which offer full marriage recognition). (Star Adviser)

Less than a year after seeing the push for civil unions vetoed, gay rights advocates cheered as Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed into law a bill legalizing civil unions and making Hawaii the seventh state to grant such privileges to same-sex couples.

Abercrombie signed the legislation at a ceremony today at historic Washington Place.

“E Komo Mai: It means all are welcome,” Abercrombie said in remarks before signing the bill into law. “This signing today of this measure says to all of the world that they are welcome. That everyone is a brother or sister here in paradise.”

“The legialization of civil unions in Hawaii represents in my mind equal rights for all people,” he said.

It is indeed a jubilant day.

But it’s a little ironic – and oddly appropriate – that Hawaii’s truly joyous occasion was outshown by the actions on the national front. And just a bit sad that on the day they wished to proclaim equal rights and benefits, it seems that they just aren’t as equal as they were yesterday.

Nevertheless, congratulations to Hawaii’s same-sex couples. Together we will move towards full inclusion.


February 24th, 2011

re “three more expected to join this year”

Rhode Island and Maryland are obvious, but what is the third? New York? I wouldn’t exactly call New York a done deal.

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