A Hawaii bill allowing same-sex couples limited benefits traditionally reserved for married couples became state law on July 8th without Governor Ben Cayetano’s signature. The legislature passed the bill in conjunction with passing a proposal to amend the state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriages. The legislation came in response to a State Supreme Court ruling that a state law banning same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. The law provides “couples” the right to share medical insurance, joint property ownership and inheritances. The law does not allow the couples to file joint income taxes or have right to child custody.
Many, however, criticize the new law because it does not apply specifically to same-sex couples and because it does not give all the benefits of marriage. The law says that any two people who are eighteen or over and unable to legally marry each other can apply for the benefits. Technically, the people do not have to know each other, live together or even live in Hawaii to apply for benefits. Gov. Cayetano supported the intent of the legislation, but not the wording and will try to change it in the next session. He commented, “Apparently the religious right did not want the bill to be seen as specifically tailored to same-sex couples. Unfortunately, the Legislature gave in to that, but created another problem.”