HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It was a busier than usual Wednesday night at Hula's Bar and Lei Stand.
The iconic Waikiki gay bar had a lot of people celebrating the signing of the Civil Unions law.
"For the community and the people, this is wonderful," said supporter Lee Yarbrough. "I'm an attorney and this is about rights. And that's where we are. We're equal."
"My partner and I, who's actually not here at the moment, she and I will go and have a civil union," said Tara O'Neill, president of Pride Alliance Hawaii. "We had what we consider our ceremony, with our family and friends, and are fortunate to be supported that way. But we have not had the full protection of the state."
While supporters celebrated, work now begins on making the law a reality. The state Health Department is getting everything ready for when the law takes effect next January.
"We will take some time to hire additional staff," said Acting Health Director Loretta Fuddy. "And we will put together an application form for civil unions. We will modify our database system to include them into our data system."
Fuddy said the procedure and paperwork will be similar to requests for a marriage license.
"We've been having anywhere between 24,000 to 30,000
Paul Klink of PreachOnTheBeach.com has been officiating weddings for about a decade. He said there's a pent-up demand for civil union ceremonies that he's willing to meet.
"Hundreds and hundreds of couples, same-sex couples, are looking forward to having their civil union services starting January first," Klink said. "Of course, that's going to be a huge day. I have reservations for -- 11, 12, 13 now already."
Even though it's the law, opposition remains.
In a statement, the Hawaii Catholic conference said, "An issue of this magnitude which alters the very foundation of our society should be decided through a constitutional amendment after a full public debate, and not by the legislature."
State Sen. Mike Gabbard, who was one of the leading supporters of the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in the state, called it a "sad day for Hawaii."
"I am getting flack from a lot of ministers and friends of mine, and just strangers who are saying things publicly," Klink said. "But you know what, I'm going to stand up for what I feel is right, and in this case, I'm looking forward to doing civil unions."
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