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Hawaii Senate passes civil unions bill

By B.J. Reyes

LAST UPDATED: 9:22 p.m. HST, Jan 28, 2011

The state Senate passed a measure today  that would allow all couples — same- or opposite-sex — to enter into a civil union with all the rights, privileges and protections of traditional marriage.

Senators voted 19-6 to pass Senate Bill 232. The bill now goes to the House for consideration. 

The proposal is substantively similar to House Bill 444 that was passed last year by both chambers before being vetoed by then-Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican, who opposed the bill saying it was same-sex marriage by another name.

Last year, HB 444 passed by an 18-7 vote in the Senate and a 31-20 margin in the House.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie supports civil unions legislation and lawmakers have said they plan to move quickly on the proposal.

House leaders plan to wait for the Senate bill before deciding how to proceed on the issue.

They could vote to approve SB 232 and send it to the governor or introduce their own proposal.

House Majority Leader Blake Oshiro has introduced a bill similar to a measure that was not heard in the Senate. The bill was crafted by select lawmakers, members of the governor's policy team and civil unions advocates and addresses some concerns surrounding implementation of a civil unions law.

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