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Civil-unions law obviates suit

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A lawsuit filed last year on behalf of six gay couples alleging the state failed to provide equal rights to gays and lesbians short of marriage has been withdrawn, attorneys said yesterday.

The action was no longer needed after Gov. Neil Aber­crom­bie signed into law a bill legalizing civil unions in Hawaii, gay rights advocacy group Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii said in a news release.

Lambda Legal and the ACLU sued the state last year after then-Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed a similar proposal passed by the Legislature.

“I can’t think of many occasions when we’ve been more delighted to dismiss a lawsuit than this,” Jennifer C. Pizer, national marriage proj­ect director for Lambda Legal, said in a statement. 

“We look forward to working closely with members of the legal and business communities to make sure the law is implemented smoothly and that everyone knows what their rights and responsibilities will be,” Pizer added. “And as this new law takes effect, we’ll be watching closely for any signs of problems.”

Abercrombie signed Senate Bill 232 into law on Feb. 23. It takes effect on Jan. 1.

The law allows all couples, same-sex or opposite-sex, to enter into a civil union, a legal status with the same rights, privileges, protections and responsibilities of traditional marriage.

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