In what can only be described as a legislative coming back from the dead, a civil unions bill was passed by the Hawaii House in the final hours of the 2010 legislative session. The key question is will Republican Governor Linda Lingle sign the bill into law.
HB 444 now goes to Gov. Linda Lingle, who has not said whether she supports or opposes the measure. If Lingle vetoes the bill, House lawmakers would need 34 votes to override.
The long-stalled House Bill 444 was revived by Majority Leader Blake Oshiro. Unlike a previous vote to postpone action on the bill, House leadership allowed for members to have a roll call vote to show where they stood on the issue.
The bill "extends the same rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities of spouses in a marriage to partners in a civil union."
This bill marks a big step forward in providing equality to gay and lesbian families, but falls short of the full security and equal protection of marriage.
In many ways, Hawaii helped to kick off the national marriage movement with the Baehr v. Miike case in the 1990s was the first to create a legal status to provide some state-level recognition and protections for same-sex couples.
Equality Hawaii and other groups in the state deserve a tremendous amount of credit for their commitment and political savvy in advancing this bill. If the bill becomes law, it will provide a key way for same-sex couples to care for their families.
Disclosure: My boss Evan Wolfson, Executive Director of Freedom to Marry, was co-counsel in the Baehr v. Miike case.