The Judiciary Committee approved the measure with a 3-2 vote.
The civil unions measure is nearly identical to a bill approved last year by the Legislature and vetoed by then-Governor Linda Lingle, a Republican. In announcing her decision, Lingle said that she believed civil unions are “essentially same-sex marriage by another name.”
Voters on November 2 rejected Lingle's lieutenant governor, James “Duke” Aiona, to succeed her in the Governor's Mansion in favor of Democrat Neil Abercrombie. Aiona had pledged to back an amendment that would ban government recognition of all gay unions, closing the option for civil unions or domestic partnerships left open by a 1998 constitutional amendment granting lawmakers the power to define marriage as a heterosexual union. The measure overruled a 1993 Hawaii Supreme Court ruling that favored gay marriage advocates. Abercrombie said he supported recognizing gay couples with civil unions.
Hawaii governor Neil Abercrombie nominated Sabrina Shizue McKenna to the Hawaii Supreme Court, where she would be the first openly gay judge, on the same day a senate committee advanced the civil unions measure.According to the Star-Advertiser, McKenna, 53, is a longtime state judge and former University of Hawaii women’s basketball player. She was born in Tokyo and raised by a single mother.Governor Abercrombie, a Democrat, called the appointment “the most important decision” in his career, reported theStar-Advertiser.McKenna said that being the first openly gay member of the court could give "hope to people who feel that they cannot succeed” for reasons including sexual orientation.Her appointment is subject to confirmation in the Hawaii senate judiciary committee.