On New Year’s Day, several same-sex couples in Hawaii and Delaware became the first few couples in their respective states to enter into civil unions.
Hawaii’s legislation was enacted at midnight on New Year’s Day, and four couples registered their relationships just a few seconds into year 2012. This makes Hawaii the seventh state in the country to allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. Delaware followed suit and allowed same-sex civil unions at 10 a.m. on Sunday.
The Aloha state’s same-sex civil unions bill was signed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie in February and grants same-sex couples the same state rights and privileges as heterosexual couples. These same rights and privileges, however, do not apply at the federal level and do not have to be recognized by other states.
Both Hawaii’s and Delaware’s legislations also explicitly state that civil unions are not the same as marriage. "It is not the legislature's intent to revise the definition or eligibility requirements of marriage," read the laws.
But Donald Bentz, executive director of Equality Hawaii Foundation, a gay-rights advocate group, told The Christian Post, that the civil unions enactment is still “cause for celebration.”
“This is a step toward marriage equality,” he said, going on to say that his organization would continue to fight for gay marriage.
“The word marriage has a lot of social connotation to it that the words ‘civil union’ doesn’t. When you walk into the room and say, ‘this is my civil union partner’ it doesn’t have as much legitimacy as saying ‘this is my wife or this is my husband,’”explained Bentz.
“Right now we are celebrating this moment and taking advantage of these new protections. Next, we are going to start taking a look at how we want to take our stories to the public so that we can gain support for our cause,” he said.
Same-sex marriage is recognized in the following states: New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire. Washington, D.C. also recognizes same-sex marriage.