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Civil unions come to Hawaii and Delaware with the new year


By Jacob Combs

Happy New Year, P8TT!  Not only does today mark the beginning of what’s bound to be a thrilling and possibly wild year for marriage equality, it’s also an important milestone for LGBT couples in Hawaii and Delaware, where civil union laws passed in 2011 have finally gone into effect.

Government offices in both states are closed for the holiday, but in Delaware, New Castle County Clerk of the Peace Ken Boulden opened his office today by appointment to issue licenses.  Earlier today, Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman and her partner became the first couple to obtain a civil union in the state.  In Hawaii, a district court judge denied a request by two churches for a restraining order barring the new law from going into effect.  The churches are suing to have the civil union law declared unconstitutional.

In 1993, the state of Hawaii set off the marriage equality debate with a court decision ruling that the state’s law banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.  In the 19 intervening years, much has changed, and the arrival of legal equality in the Aloha State (and Delaware too!) is something to celebrate.

Along with many in the community, I find myself somewhat conflicted when it comes to civil unions.  Of course, our ultimate goal is and must be full federal marriage rights: having marriages for heterosexual couples and civil unions for gay and lesbian couples smacks of “separate but equal” discrimination.  Nevertheless, civil unions are an important stepping stone to full equality.  Their impact is undeniable, and they bring real rights and protections that gay and lesbian couples deserve.  (Of course, that’s only when the civil union law is well-designed–yes, I’m looking at you, Rhode Island.)

Furthermore, civil unions set the stage for judicial decisions like In re marriage cases, the California Supreme Court ruling that held in part that it was unconstitutional to prohibit gay couples’ relationships from being recognized as marriages, even though the state’s domestic partnership law granted these couples the same rights as opposite-sex couples.  Civil unions could be the first step in other states to judicial decisions (or, of course, legislative action) affirming full marriage equality.

Are you or someone you know planning on getting a civil union in Hawaii or Delaware?  Let us know in the comments!  Here’s to a great 2012.


  • 1. Ray in MA  |  January 1, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    The first order of business for my New Year is to fill out a DP Form for my health benefits.

    I am legally married in MA, but they won't accept that as documentation!


  • 2. thark  |  January 1, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    A special congratulations to older gay couples in DE & HI, many of whom have ALREADY survived as ONE; living in love through some incredibly animus-inspired odds at times, and yet finding ways to live *Happily ever After" ANYWAY!!)

    2012 = 1968



    it's what the world needs now (well…that, and of course, *LOVE*!!!!)


  • 3. Drew  |  January 1, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Civil unions are bull, but if it gets us closer to real equality, so be it.

  • 4. Walter  |  January 1, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    If polling shows the public oppose marriage equality, then take civil unions. They are easier to sell to a skeptical public and harder for the religious right to oppose. They usually come with most everything but the word marriage. After that, sue for equality. It is pretty easy to show no rational reason exists to deny gay parents and their children from using the word marriage other than sheer animosity toward them.

  • 5. Steve  |  January 1, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    Take those churches tax-exempt status away.

  • 6. Str8Grandmother  |  January 2, 2012 at 4:56 am

    Whoaaa Thark, I'll give you a Thumbs Up on this comment <3

  • 7. Rachel  |  January 2, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    I am Catholic and take my Faith very seriously. I find absolutely "NO" reason why letting two people express their love under God, affects me or my own marriage or my FAITH. My brother is gay and Catholic, he attends Mass and is a good man. His partner is a dis-fellowshiped Jehovah's Witness, who tried for many years to stay with his Congregation and deny his orientation. Both men are devout and love God and know in their hearts that Christ is their savior. How sad that there are people in the world that are so insecure in their own relationship with God that they must stop others from practicing their Faith. I hope the decision in California happens soon and that one day I will be able to attend my brother and his partners wedding in California, what a proud day for me his sister that loves him with all her heart, he deserves to be happy and don't we all?

  • 8. thark  |  January 2, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Any long term gay couple should know by now that they didn't make it this far, through this level of constant tribulation and denigration, and bullying, without some amazing help from something greater than ourselves.

    I hope we all remember that gratitude, for the fortitude of all those freedom fighters and justice seekers who came before, is indeed called for…whether they be human, or purely ideological spirits.

    We are here. And we made it this far.

    The antigays preyed to "protect marriage"…and accidentally DO!

    (*Mysterious Ways* indeed…)

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