"E Komo Mai: It means all are welcome," Abercrombie said in remarks before signing the bill into law. "This signing today of this measure says to all of the world that they are welcome. That everyone is a brother or sister here in paradise. The legialization of civil unions in Hawaii represents in my mind equal rights for all people," he said.
Senate Bill 232 allows all couples — same-sex and heterosexual — to enter into a civil union, a legal status with all the rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities as traditional marriage. [It] contains specific provisions aimed at clarifying implementation for the state Department of Health.
The civil unions bill was the first bill signed by the new governor.
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 supposedly to "protect" traditional marriage.
Civil unions would begin Jan. 1, 2012, making the Aloha State the seventh in the nation to grant civil unions. Five states and the District of Columbia permit same-sex marriage.