News Update – Victory! Gov. Abercrombie Signs Civil Unions Law

Forwarded from Equality Hawaii:

Hawaii becomes 15th U.S. jurisdiction to provide same-sex couples equal rights under the law

HONOLULU – Equality Hawaii, the state’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, and the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, today congratulated Gov. Neil Abercrombie, the Hawaii legislature and the people of Hawaii for enacting civil unions into law. The legislation provides that the equal rights and responsibilities of married couples in Hawaii be afforded to thousands of non-married couples in the state – including same-sex couples.  The law takes effect Jan. 1, 2012.

“Today is a truly momentous day in Hawaii and a great step forward in our struggle towards full equality,” said Alan Spector, co-chair of Equality Hawaii.  “After nearly two decades of debate and sometimes hostile rhetoric, the people of Hawaii have spoken loud and clear, and their words ring true with hope and optimism. Equality Hawaii thanks Gov. Abercrombie, the Legislature, Human Rights Campaign and all those who have joined this fight for equal rights during the last two decades.”

“I have always believed that civil unions respect our diversity, protect people’s privacy, and reinforce our core values of equality and aloha,” said Governor Neil Abercrombie.  “For me, this bill represents equal rights for all the people of Hawaii. I appreciate all the time and effort invested by those who shared their thoughts and concerns regarding civil unions in Hawaii.”

The struggle for equal relationship recognition for same-sex couples began in Hawaii in 1993 when the Hawaii Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Baehr v. Lewin, which found a constitutional right to marriage for same-sex couples.  In 1998, a constitutional amendment giving the Legislature the authority to define marriage was approved by a public vote, and the Legislature subsequently enacted a law that defined marriage as between one man and one woman.  Since then, attitudes towards same-sex relationship recognition in Hawaii and around the country have changed.  Today, a vast majority of Hawaii residents support civil unions and a majority support marriage equality.

“Neil Abercrombie has been a stalwart advocate and friend of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community for decades,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.  “Today he fulfills a major campaign promise to lay the issue of civil unions to rest, and finally provide equal rights and responsibilities to thousands of same-sex families in the Aloha State.  The Human Rights Campaign thanks  Equality Hawaii and other coalition partners, as well as our friends in the legislature for continuing to fight for what is right and just.”

“Equality is not simply an issue to be debated and voted on, it is an idea that all people are created equal no matter who they are,” said Rep. Blake Oshiro, House Majority Leader.  “For too long, Hawaii’s same-sex families have languished as second-class citizens, denied equal civil rights and treatment under the law.  Today, we bring the concepts of ohana and aloha back to the people of this great state.  I thank Gov. Abercrombie, my colleagues in the Legislature, Equality Hawaii and the Human Rights Campaign for their dedication to this cause and look forward to working with all advocates for equality in the future.”

The Human Rights Campaign and Equality Hawaii have worked closely together since 2008 to build both public and legislative support for civil unions. Through this joint effort, tens of thousands of phone calls, emails, postcards and handwritten letters have been sent to legislators, urging them to approve this legislation.  More on our work in Hawaii is at www.equalityhawaii.org, www.hrc.org/HawaiiWorkSummary and www.hrcbackstory.org/hawaii.

HRC and Equality Hawaii recognize the leadership of Majority Leader Blake Oshiro, Speaker Calvin Say, House Judiciary Chair Gilbert Keith-Agaran, Senate Judiciary Chair Clayton Hee, Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria and Senate President Shan Tsutsui, as well as all other legislators who stood up in the face of opposition.  We also recognize the contributions of ACLU of Hawaii, Da Moms, GLBT Caucus of the Hawaii Democratic Party, Interfaith Alliance of Hawaii, Lambda Legal, PFLAG-Oahu, Pride Alliance Hawaii, Pride at Work, UNITE HERE Local 5, PFLAG-Kauai, Lambda Aloha and other groups and individuals too numerous to list.

Same-sex couples do not receive federal rights and benefits in any state.  For an electronic map showing where marriage equality stands in the states, please visit: www.HRC.org/State_Laws.

Equality Hawaii is dedicated to securing equality for all Hawaii’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families. For more information, click here.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality.  By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all. For more information, click here.

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