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Rainbow Warriors

A triumphant step; more battles ahead.

March 3, 2011
Trisha Smith

A few things have changed since that fateful day last summer—including the plug being pulled on Olbermann’s show—as many in Hawai‘i are now applauding their leader’s courageous actions. Via a live online feed, Gov. Neil Abercrombie made a historical statement when he signed into law a bill that creates civil unions for same-sex couples, extending many of the same state rights as married partners enjoy when entering into a contract of marriage.

Civil unions will commence Jan. 1, 2012, making Hawai‘i the seventh state to allow them, or similar legal recognitions, for gay couples. Five other states and Washington, D.C., permit same-sex marriage. Coupled with the Obama Administration’s recent move to no longer support the Defense of Marriage Act, it seems our nation may follow the 12 countries on four continents that allow all the freedom to marry.

“This bill represents equal rights for everyone in Hawai‘i, everyone who comes here,” said Gov. Abercrombie. “This is to me the essence of the aloha spirit.”

Arguments over civil unions and gay marriage have divided the Aloha State for a long time—ironic, since it nearly became the first in the U.S. to legalize gay marriage in 1993 before a Hawai‘i Supreme Court ruling.

Founder and President Evan Wolfson of the civil rights organization, Freedom to Marry, said the new law “brings us one step closer to full recognition of loving and committed same-sex couples in Hawai‘i.”

“While a welcome step, civil union is no substitute for the full measure of respect, clarity, security, responsibilities and protection of marriage itself,” he said. “States that have created civil union as a means of both giving and withholding—providing legal protections while withholding the freedom to marry and all its meaning—have found that civil union falls far short of marriage with all its tangible and intangible significance in our lives.”

Many of the states he mentioned pushed past civil union to marriage, recognizing the “inadequacy and unfairness of a separate and unequal status,” according to Wolfson.

“Having today laid a good foundation with civil union, Hawai‘i should move swiftly to finish the job by ending exclusion from marriage itself, allowing all committed couples to share in the same responsibilities, same respect, and same rules,” he said.



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