HONOLULU -- Hawaii Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed same-sex civil unions into law Feb. 23, a week after the bill passed the state Legislature, calling it a "triumph for everyone."
Civil unions will be legal in the 50th state beginning Jan. 1, 2012. The law extends the same rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities of spouses in marriage to homosexual couples in a civil union.
The Hawaii Catholic Conference said it was disappointed with lawmakers' support for the measure and the governor's endorsement.
"Passage of this legislation is just a step toward the legalization of same-sex marriage," said the conference, the church's public policy arm, in a Feb. 23 statement.
"Marriage is what it is and always has been, no matter how this Legislature defines it; however, the public understanding of marriage will be negatively affected by passage of a law that ignores the natural fact that sexual complementarity is at the very core of marriage," it said. "The impact of this legislation on Catholic ministries remains an important and thus far unanswered concern."