AINA HAINA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Four Honolulu couples became the first to enter into civil unions in Hawaii under a new law that took effect with the New Year. The ceremony was held at a private residence in Aina Haina attended by about 90 people.
For Donna Gedge and Monica Montgomery, there was a lot of anticipation as they awaited the stroke of midnight -- and the law to take effect.
"It's very high," said Montgomery. "We've been waiting a long time and now the night is finally here so it's really exciting."
"I'm nervous," said Gedge. When asked how long she and Montgomery had been together, she replied, "We've been together for 33 years, so it's been a very long time."
Lydia Pontin and Bonnie Limatoc-DePonte said they were ecstatic and happy, but also knew they were part of a historic occasion.
"We are not doing this to hurt anybody. We are just doing this because we love each other," Pontin said.
Limatoc-DePonte immediately added, "And we want to be able to live like everybody else and be able to have a life and have it together and enjoy. We are not trying to step on anybody's toes or anything."
Gary Bradley and Paul Perry have been together for three and-a-half years, and attended in matching aloha shirts. They said they took part to make a statement. "It's not just about us, but the other couples as well," said Bradley. "That's why we are doing it as a group and it's what we wanted to do, to let everyone know that we are making a step forward as a group."
Saralynn Batt and Isajah Morales also were joined together in the ceremony.
Organizers and supporters of civil unions said the night was a long time coming. "You can talk to some folks that are at this event tonight and they can tell you from '91 and from even before then, Hawaii really has been pivotal in the country, not even just in the state but in the country for supporting equality throughout the decades, so it's just really exciting to be a space in celebration finally again," said Tara O'Neill of Pride Alliance Hawaii. which was part of the Civil Unions in Hawaii 2012 Committee.
"A lot of organizing. Of course a lot of lobbying meeting with legislators. A lot of media. All leading up to this day," said Tambry Young of Citizens for Equal Rights, which also was a committee member.
"It represents the culmination of almost 20 years of an effort to achieve equality in Hawaii," said guest Valerie Smith, co-chair of Equality Hawaii. "It's one step close to full marriage equality."
The gathering waited for the civil union applications to become available on the Internet after midnight. When they finally came on-line, it took each couple about ten minutes to complete the forms. Then, it took another five minutes for each of the three civil union officiants to apply for their licenses to perform the ceremony. And then there was a short delay because of an in-house computer glitch.
But the couples were ready when, one hour after midnight, the ceremony began, led by Rev. Kyle Lovett of the Church of the Crossroads, Rev. Jonipher Kwong of the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu, and Rev. Pam Vessels. The couples exchanged vows and rings.
Then, the three officiants said, in unison, "We now pronounce that you are legally joined as partners in life." The celebrants cheered as the couples kissed.
"Absolutely awesome," said Bradley. "This isn't just about us, but it is for the state of Hawaii and the people of Hawaii and its about equality, and its just one step closer to, which is what we all want, and that's full marriage equality."
After the ceremony, Gedge and Montgomery were relieved. "The last two weeks have been really long and this evening's been long," said Gedge. "So I'm glad I can have a glass of champagne and just kind of enjoy that we've reached a milestone so now we can just enjoy it. Yay!"
"Happy New Year!" added Montgomery, as the pair raised champagne glasses.
Under the new law, not only are the four same-sex couples legally recognized in Hawaii. Any same-sex couple legally married or in a civil union in any other state or country now also have those relationships legally recognized as well.