Press Center

NCLR Applauds Hawai'i's Passage of Civil Unions Law

Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell


(San Francisco, CA, February 16, 2011)—Today, the Hawai‘i State Senate passed a bill to establish a system of civil unions, available to both same-sex and different-sex couples, providing civil union partners all the rights, benefits, and obligations that are available to married couples in that state.

The bill was first approved by the Hawai‘i Senate on January 28, 2011. The Hawai‘i House approved an amended version of the bill on February 11, 2011. The Senate’s passage today sends the bill to the desk of Governor Neil Abercrombie, who has said that he will sign it into law. The House made several minor amendments to clarify that civil union partners could file taxes jointly and obtain a divorce in family court.

When the governor signs the bill, Hawai‘i will become the seventh state in the country to grant same-sex couples legal rights similar to those afforded to different-sex couples. Five other states, and Washington D.C, provide full marriage equality for same-sex couples.

Today’s vote comes nearly 15 years after the Hawai‘i Supreme Court issued a decision in 1996 suggesting that same-sex couples may have a constitutional right to marry under the Hawai‘i Constitution. That ruling never took effect, however. Hawai‘i voters in 1998 approved the nation’s first state constitutional amendment to exclude same-sex couples from marriage. Last year, Hawai‘i’s legislature passed legislation similar to the bill approved today, but then-Governor Linda Lingle vetoed the measure.

Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell:

"This bill’s passage marks an important step toward equal treatment for same-sex couples and their families in Hawai‘i. When Governor Abercrombie signs the bill into law, same-sex couples and their children will be able to enjoy more legal benefits and protections than they have ever had in Hawai‘i. While the bill falls short of providing true equality, it is significant progress. We look forward to the day when Hawai‘i finally realizes the promise of full marriage equality set forth in the Hawai‘i Supreme Court’s groundbreaking decision 18 years ago."



The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

media contacts:


Erik Olvera
Director of Communications
National Center for Lesbian Rights
office: 415.392.6257 x324

Bethany Woolman
Communications Associate
National Center for Lesbian Rights
office: 415.392.6257 x305


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