Hawaii Civil Unions Passes in Senate, Moves to Governor

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 Hawaii civil union supporters are optimistic that a bill providing many marriage rights to same sex couples will be signed into law by the governor.

With a 18-5 vote, the Senate approved the civil unions bill Feb. 16.

The Senate was expected to consider the civil unions bill Feb. 15, but Sen. Clayton Hee proposed delaying a decision because of procedural concerns.

Many civil unions supporters hailed the passage of the bill in the state Senate as a step toward equality.

For Japanese American Gary Okabayashi, 65, the absence of a civil unions law in the state makes him feel, he says, like a second-class citizen.

“I have a partner and we’ve been together for over 33 years,” Okabayashi explained. “We think civil unions is a matter of civil rights.”

The Hawaii couple has been following civil union legislation in Hawaii for years, Okabayashi said, who is a JACL member. Last year, a similar same-sex civil unions bill went to then-Gov. Linda Lingle’s desk.

Opponents to same-sex civil unions appealed to the governor by the thousands, flooding the governor’s office with e-mails, letters and phone calls. Russell Pang, chief of media relations, explained then that the majority of the correspondence at the time was in opposition to same-sex civil unions.