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Civil unions on the brink of approval

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The state Legislature is poised to give final approval today to a proposal to permit civil unions in Hawaii, sending it to Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who has promised to sign the measure.

"Of course, the governor intends to sign the bill," said Donalyn Dela Cruz, Abercrombie’s spokeswoman.

The Senate has a final vote on the measure scheduled today during its regular session that starts at 11:30 a.m.

If approved, as expected, the governor would have 10 legislative days, from the time it reaches his desk, to sign the bill into law.

The Senate agreed yesterday to changes the House made to the measure, Senate Bill 232.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Clayton Hee (D, Kahuku-Kaneohe) said the changes were vetted with staff attorneys and others.

"While the committee believes that word-smithing may have been better, it doesn’t rise to the level of disagreement," Hee said. "Therefore, as chair of the committee, respectfully, we move to agree."

House members approved their version of SB 232 in a 31-19 vote Friday.

The bill allows couples — either of the same sex or heterosexual — to enter into a civil union, a legal status with all the rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities of traditional marriage.

The latest version clarifies 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.

The Senate previously approved the measure 19-6 late last month.


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