Hawaii Passes Same-Sex Civil Union Law
"I have always believed that civil unions respect our diversity, protect people's privacy, and reinforce our core values of equality and aloha," Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie said in a statement after the Hawaii state Senate voted to pass the legislation. "For me this bill represents equal rights for all the people of Hawaii."
Abercrombie described the fight to legalize civil unions in his state as an "emotional process," but celebrated its outcome.
"Everyone has been heard; all points of view respected," he said.
The Senate voted to pass the bill by 18-5 after what the Hawaii Reporter described as a "spirited" debate on the Senate floor.
"I have a great sense of pride for the Legislature that was able to see the big picture of equality for Hawaii," Tara O'Neill, president of the gay activist group Pride Alliance, told the paper.
The debate over civil unions has long been a contentious issue in Hawaii; last year, former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed a similar measure, inspiring outrage - and even some talk of boycotts on state tourism - from gay rights groups.
On Wednesday, Hawaii Democratic state Senator Clayton Hee praised the bill's passage.
"There is no denying that by this action, Hawaii takes a significant step towards true equality," Hee said, according to the Reporter.
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