Excellent news to report from Hawaii. Earlier this week a Senate committee advanced SB232, a civil unions bill "substantively similar" to the measure passed last year. The Senate overwhelmingly passed the measure on Friday, reports the Honolulu Star Advertiser.
Senators voted 19-6 yesterday to approve Senate Bill 232, a proposal essentially the same as House Bill 444, Senate Draft 1, which passed both chambers last year. The proposal would grant all couples of the same or opposite sex the ability to enter into a civil union with all the rights, privileges, protections and responsibilities of traditional marriage.
The House could either approve SB 232 and send it to the governor or pass its own version. Both bodies need to agree on the language before sending a final bill to Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who supports civil unions.
House Majority Leader Blake Oshiro, with 21 co-sponsors, has introduced a bill similar to a measure that was not heard in the Senate. The bill was crafted by select lawmakers, members of the governor's policy team and civil unions advocates and addresses some concerns about implementation of a civil unions law. The proposal spells out processes such as how the state Department of Health would oversee licensing of civil unions, and ensures that the rights extend to applicable health, insurance and tax codes.
The Democratic-dominated House and Senate have promised to move quickly on the legislation. Adds KITV: "Supporters hope one amendment would move the effective date to July 1, 2011, and take effect without government rulemaking, which would mean civil unions could begin this summer."
HB 444, the previous Hawaii civil unions bill, passed the legislature in April 2010. Hawaii's twice-divorced and lame duck Republican Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed HB444 last July to "protect" traditional marriage. Democratic Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, the pro-equality former longtime congressman, has "promised to sign whatever civil unions legislation is approved."