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House approves civil unions bill in 31-19 vote

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State House members approved a proposal today to legalize civil unions in Hawaii.
 
Members approved the proposal by a 31-19 vote. One member, Rep. Rida Cabanilla, was absent.
 
The bill now goes back to the Senate, which passed a similar version of the measure last month. If the Senate agrees to changes in the bill made by the House, the measure would go to Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who supports civil unions legislation.
 
Senate Bill 232 would grant same-sex and heterosexual couples the ability to enter into a civil union with all of the rights, protections, benefits and responsibilities of traditional marriage.
 
The House changes — recommended by the state Attorney General’s Office — clarify that because civil unions will not be recognized under federal law, certain provisions of the Internal Revenue Code that apply to husbands and wives in Hawaii would 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, as the court does over marriages.
 
Senate Judiciary Chairman Clayton Hee has said the changes appear reasonable and he believes the Senate’s inclination would be to agree to the changes and send the bill to the governor.

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