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On fast track, civil unions could go to governor next week

By B.J. Reyes

LAST UPDATED: 10:19 p.m. HST, Feb 9, 2011

A proposal to grant civil unions in Hawaii appears to have the support of both houses of the Legislature and could be on its way to Gov. Neil Abercrombie by the end of next week.

The measure, which was approved by the Senate last month, received initial approval of the full House today by a 32-18 vote, with one member absent.

Senate Bill 232 faces a final vote by the House on Friday.
Because changes were made, the Senate must agree to those changes before it can go to the governor, who is supportive of civil unions legislation.

The bill would allow same-sex and heterosexual couples to enter into civil unions and receive the same rights, benefits and responsibilities as marriage under state law.

The House changes — recommended by the state Attorney General’s Office — clarify that since civil unions will not be recognized under federal law, certain provisions of the Internal Revenue Code that apply to husbands and wives in Hawaii apply with the same force and effect to partners in civil unions. Family Court will also have jurisdiction in matters of annulment, divorce and separation in civil unions, like the court does over marriages.

Although he had not seen the final version of the bill yesterday, Senate Judiciary Chairman Clayton Hee said he discussed the changes with his House counterpart, Judiciary Chairman Rep. Gil Keith-Agaran (D, Kahului-Paia).

“Based on the conversation I had, it sounds to me his amendments appear to be reasonable,” said Hee (D, Kahuku-Kaneohe). “Unless there’s some real difficult issues with the members in the Senate, the inclination would probably be to agree to the House amendments.”

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