Delaware, Hawaii Welcome 2012 with Legal Civil Unions

New Year’s Day celebrations

Two more states joined the growing number of jurisdictions that recognize same-sex unions on January 1, 2012, as laws allowing civil unions went into effect in Delaware and Hawaii.

In Delaware, attorneys Lisa Goodman and Drewry Fennell were the first to take advantage of the new law, celebrating with 400 guests at a party after the ceremony. Goodman leads the statewide LGBT organization Equality Delaware and was instrumental in getting the civil union bill passed. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Jack Markell in May 2011.

In Hawaii, Monica Montgomery and Donna Gedge, together for 33 years, were the first to be joined in a civil union shortly after midnight on January 1. The state legislature passed the civil union bill, signed into law by Gov. Neil Abercrombie, in February 2011. The New Year’s Day celebration marked the culmination of a two-decade fight for legal recognition of same-sex couples in the Aloha State.

Three other states—New Jersey, Rhode Island and Illinois—have legalized civil unions, which entail many of the same rights as civil marriages but are a separate institution. They do not bestow the more than 1,000 federal rights that married heterosexual couples enjoy, as prohibited by the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Six states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage.

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