same-sex couples without authorizing marriage itself.
Hawaii lawmakers approved a bill Wednesday to allow civil unions for same-sex couples, marking an end to what the governor called an "emotional process" for a longtime battleground in the gay rights movement.
The House passed the bill last week and the Senate passed it with a 18-5 vote.Gay rights advocates praised the vote as a victory for equal rights in a state known for its diversity and tolerance.
"I have always believed that civil unions respect our diversity, protect people's privacy, and reinforce our core values of equality and aloha," Governor Abercrombie said in a statement released minutes after Wednesday's vote. "For me, this bill represents equal rights for all the people of Hawai'i."
The civil unions vote came immediately after the Senate confirmed the state's first openly gay Supreme Court justice, Sabrina McKenna.