Swedish native Dan Abrahamsson, on vacation to the United States, fell in love with a Hawaii man, now his partner of six years.
"I was lucky to get a green card," said the 54-year-old St. Louis Heights man. "Otherwise, it would not have been possible to stay together."
That is just one of many issues facing gay couples.
With just two weeks before the governor must decide the fate of the civil unions bill, Abrahamsson was one of about 30 supporters of House Bill 444 from gay and civil rights groups who hoped to sway the governor by rallying at the state Capitol. They waved to passing motorists, many of whom honked and waved back in support yesterday afternoon.
Big Island resident Monica Adams, 35, who traveled to Honolulu with her partner for the rally, said the scant attendance is all the more reason such an equal-rights bill is needed.
"Many are afraid to be seen on television or in the newspaper," she said. "Because we’re not equal citizens, it perpetuates the perception that we don’t deserve equal rights."
She’d like to enjoy the same basic rights her married friends do, such as easily buying and owning a house together, getting the tax credits, being able to file joint income tax returns and parental rights.
Waikiki resident Gary Okabayashi, 64, and Lenny Zimmerman, 67, his partner of 32 years, said while the main benefit for civil unions may be financial, "we want to get validation from the state that we’re equal citizens, and we’re doing it for the youth of Hawaii."