Hawaii lawmakers approved a bill to allow civil unions for same-sex couples. Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s office said he intends to sign the bill into law within 10 business days. Civil unions would begin Jan. 1, 2012, making the state the seventh in the nation to grant essentially the same rights of marriage to same-sex couples without authorizing marriage itself. The bill, approved by 69 percent of voters, was a response to a 1993 state Supreme Court decision that nearly legalized marriage equality. The final vote came after years of rallies, election battles and passionate public testimony on an issue that has divided the Rainbow State for nearly 20 years.
“It’s been a long time coming. To see it come to fruition is a big day,” said David Robins of Honolulu, who also wants full marriage rights for gay couples. “This is the right first step.”