The quest for marriage equality took a big step on April 30 when the Hawaii State Legislature passed House Bill 444. The bill, when signed by Governor Linda Lingle, establishes civil unions in Hawaii.
“In the 1990s, Hawaii began the national conversation about ending gay couples’ exclusion from marriage, and was the first to create a legal status to provide some state-level recognition and protections for same-sex couples,” says Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry. “The legislature’s passage of a civil union bill marks a major step forward in Hawaii’s journey toward fairness and equality, but falls short of the full security and equal protection that come only with the freedom to marry.
“In the years since the groundbreaking Hawaii marriage case, the experience of other states such as Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and New Jersey—as well as several countries—has been that civil unions are no substitute for marriage. I urge Governor Lingle to swiftly sign House Bill 444 into law, and [encourage] Hawaii to continue its journey and finish the job by ending the denial of marriage.”
As the June issue of OutSmart went to press, Gov. Lingle said that she had not made up her mind on civil unions, but described the bill passed by the state Legislature as “the equivalent of same-sex marriage.”
“It does appear to me, on reading it, that it really is same-sex marriage, but by a different name,” Gov. Lingle stated at the state GOP convention in Waikiki. “But I want to wait and hear people out.”