Excellent news from Hawaii. On Wednesday the House Judiciary Committee overwhelmingly approved SB 232, a civil unions bill "substantively similar" to the measure passed last year. The State House has approved the measure by a 31-19 vote, reports the Honolulu Star Advertiser.
Senate Bill 232 would grant same-sex and heterosexual couples the ability to enter into a civil union with all of the rights, protections, benefits and responsibilities of traditional marriage. The House changes — recommended by the state Attorney General's Office — clarify that because civil unions will not be recognized under federal law, certain provisions of the Internal Revenue Code that apply to husbands and wives in Hawaii would apply with the same force and effect to partners in civil unions. Family Court will also have jurisdiction in matters of annulment, divorce and separation in civil unions, as the court does over marriages.
The bill heads back to the Senate, which approved a similar version of the measure by a 19-6 vote on January 29. If the Senate agrees to the House's changes, the bill would go to Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who has "promised to sign whatever civil unions legislation is approved."