By a vote of 31-20, the Hawaii House approved a civil union bill yesterday on the last day of the session with hours left, after a motion by House Majority Leader Blake Oshiro. The bill passed the Senate in January 18-7.
"Gov. Linda Lingle had urged lawmakers against taking up civil unions this session and to instead focus on the state's budget deficit. She has not said whether she would sign or veto the bill.
Lingle has 45 days to decide. If she vetoes the bill, the House and Senate can come back in a one-day override session in July.
The vote in the Senate was enough to override a veto, but the vote in the House was not. The House would need 34 votes to override."
The civil union measure gives unmarried same-sex and heterosexual couples the same rights as those who are married.
The AP reports: "This year the issue has proven divisive in Hawaii with religious groups arguing that civil unions are a step toward legalizing same-sex marriage. During one of the biggest ever state rallies, several thousand people protesting the measure rode buses to the Hawaii Capitol last year following Sunday church services.
The gay and lesbian community urged lawmakers to act on their principles rather than back down in the face of public pressure from opponents threatening to vote them out of office.
Civil-union supporters wearing rainbow-colored leis, or flower necklaces, jumped and screamed for joy outside the House chamber following the vote."
Read House Bill 444 (PDF)