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Case seeking civil unions for same-sex couples in Hawai`i.


Lambda Legal, co-counsel for six plaintiff couples, filed this case seeking a status like civil unions as a measure of fairness for same-sex couples in Hawai`i. Our plaintiffs wish to assume the same rights and responsibilities as spouses, and would marry if the law permitted. Hawai`i instead relegates same-sex couples to the inadequate status of reciprocal beneficiaries, with only limited protections. Lambda Legal’s case seeks creation of a status like civil unions to afford same-sex couples the important state-law protections they are denied, including the mechanisms for securing parents’ relationships with their children, access to family court and clear duties to pay child support and alimony as spouses must, and other vital protections.

Lambda Legal was co-counsel in the Baehr v. Miike litigation in which the Hawai`i Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that denying same-sex couples access to marriage is sex discrimination. Because the 1998 amendment of Hawai`i’s constitution reserved to the legislature the power to open marriage to lesbian and gay couples, this lawsuit only seeks a status like civil unions for same-sex couples. While civil unions do not provide the full equality that gay people deserve, they constitute an essential safety net against many significant harms.


  • February 2009 By a wide margin, the Hawai`i House passes HB 444, a bill that would have granted all state rights of spouses to committed, unmarried same- and opposite-sex couples.
  • May 2009 The Senate passes an amended form of HB 444. The vote is carried over to the 2010 session.
  • January 2010 The Senate passes HB 444 with a veto-proof majority and sends it back to the House for a conforming vote. House Speaker Calvin Say moves to indefinitely postpone a vote. Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Hawai`i announce they will file suit if the bill is abandoned.
  • April 29, 2010 The House passes HB 444 after the budget bills on the last day of the legislative session, giving Governor Linda Lingle until July 6 to sign, veto or allow the bill to become law without her signature. Lambda Legal and the ACLU postpone their lawsuit pending action by the Governor.
  • July 6, 2010 Governor Lingle vetoes HB 444.
  • July 29, 2010 Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Hawai`i sue Governor Linda Lingle and the state of Hawai`i on behalf of six same-sex couples seeking to protect their families through civil union.
  • November 2, 2010 Neil Abercrombie is elected governor of Hawai`i, meaning the case caption changes automatically to Young v. Abercrombie.
  • January 28, 2011 The Hawai`i Senate passes SB 232 by a 19-6 vote.
  • February 11, 2011 The Hawai`i House amends and approves SB232 by a 31-19 vote.
  • February 16, 2011 The Senate concurs in the House amendments and gives final approval to SB232.
  • February 23, 2011 Governor Abercrombie signs SB232 into law, with an effective date of January 1, 2012.
  • March 31, 2011 Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Hawai`i voluntarily dismiss the lawsuit.