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BREAKING NEWS: Hawaii’s governor signs civil unions bill into law

HONOLULU – Despite battling a cold, Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie got out of his sick bed today to sign the Rainbow State’s civil unions bill into law.

Abercrombie, a Democrat, said the new law would truly make all Hawaiians equal.

He said Hawaii “does not let diversity divide us.”

“This bill represents equal rights for everybody in Hawaii,” Abercrombie said just before formally signing the bill.

The Rainbow State will join 13 other states plus Washington, D.C., with laws providing an expansive form of state-level relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples.

Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C., provide marriage to same-sex couples under state law.

New York and Maryland recognize out-of-jurisdiction same-sex marriages, but do not provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples in state.

Five other states — California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington — provide same-sex couples with access to almost of all the state level benefits and responsibilities of marriage, through either civil unions or domestic partnerships. A new law providing for civil unions in Illinois will take effect on June 1.

Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, and Wisconsin provide gay and lesbian couples with limited rights and benefits, not all rights provided to married couples. An attorney general opinion and subsequent court ruling in Rhode Island resulted in limited recognition of out-of-jurisdiction marriages of same-sex couples. California recognized marriage for same-sex couples between June and November of 2008, before voters approved Proposition 8, which purports to amend the state constitution to prohibit marriage equality. Couples married during that window remain married under California law, but all other same-sex couples can only receive a domestic partnership within the state. The state will recognize out-of-jurisdiction same-sex marriages that occurred before Nov. 5, 2008 as marriages and those that occurred on or after Nov. 5, 2008 as similar to domestic partnerships.

Same-sex couples do not receive federal rights and benefits in any state. For an electronic map showing where marriage equality stands in the states, visit HERE.