HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Civil unions will soon become a reality in Hawaii. The state's new online application system will start once the law goes into effect at midnight on January 1. Governor Neil Abercrombie signed legislation in February legalizing civil unions in the islands. Same-sex and opposite-sex partners will have many of the same rights as married couples.
"It is going to be a historic event that a lot of people have worked hard to see this come through," said Tambry Young, president of Citizens for Equal Rights.
The Department of Health hired extra help to prepare for all the new applications.
"We're not sure how many are coming, but from the inquiries we've gotten, we've gotten inquiries from all over the world," said DOH state registrar Alvin Onaka.
Couples can apply and pay for a license online, then meet with an agent who will verify their information. At the same time, officiants will be getting their certification to perform ceremonies.
"We do have some couples that are looking at January 1, being one of the first couples to have a civil union," said Young.
Some couples already had a ceremony in another state that will automatically be recognized in Hawaii. Others are concerned about a gap from when they terminate a reciprocal beneficiary relationship to the time they enter a civil union.
"We are kind of surprised. We thought there would be more people that wanted to have a civil union come January 1," said Young.
"Whether there is one couple or a thousand couples, the system needs to be up and available for that, and that's what we're prepared for," said Onaka.
Couples applying for a traditional marriage license will also be able to use the online registration starting on New Year's Day. The state hopes to issue certificates in a matter of days instead of weeks with the new system.
For more information, go to www.hawaii.gov/doh/civilunion.