Brilliant. The Hawaii Senate has voted 18 to 5 for final approval of SB 232, the civil unions bill that passed the House last Friday. Gov. Neil Abercrombie says he will sign the bill into law and that "could happen as soon as this week," reports KITV.
The Star Advertiser adds:
"I have always believed that civil unions respect our diversity, protect people's privacy, and reinforce our core values of equality and aloha," Abercrombie said in a statement after the vote. ... For me, this bill represents equal rights for all the people of Hawaii."
Hawaii becomes the seventh state to grant civil unions to same-sex couples without authorizing marriage itself. Five states and Washington, D.C., permit same-sex marriage.
"Today is a momentous day," said Sen. Clayton Hee. "There is no denying that by this action Hawaii takes a significant step towards true equality."
SB 232 allows all couples—same-sex and heterosexual—to enter into a civil union, which will have "all the rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities as traditional marriage."
The bill is "substantively similar" to HB 444, the measure passed last year. Hawaii's twice-divorced and lame duck Republican Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed that bill in July 2010 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."
Next up: Maryland!