The Hawaii Civil Unions law, now known as Act 1, went into effect on January 1, 2012.
While you can read the full text of Act 1 online, here is brief summary of the pertinent parts of the law as they will particularly effect visitors to Hawaii who wish to plan and schedule a Civil Union ceremony while they are in the islands.
What is a Civil Union as Defined in Act 1?
"Civil union" means a union between two individuals established pursuant to this chapter (i.e. the Act).
"Partner" means an individual who is a party to a civil union established pursuant to this chapter(i.e. the Act).
Who Can Enter into a Civil Union?
A person shall be eligible to enter into a civil union only if the person is:
- Not a partner in another civil union, a spouse in a marriage, or a party to a reciprocal beneficiary relationship pursuant to chapter 572C; (The Reciprocal Beneficiaries Law of 1997 which allowed any two single adults — including same-sex partners, blood relatives or just friends — to have access to less than 60 spousal rights on the state level.)
- At least eighteen years of age; and
- Not related to the other proposed partner in the civil union, as provided in section 3 . Specifically in section 3, the law states that a civil union cannot take place between the following persons "parent and child, grandparent and grandchild, two siblings, aunt and nephew, aunt and niece, uncle and nephew, uncle and niece, and persons who stand in relation to each other as ancestor and descendant of any degree whatsoever."
In short, any adult over 18 can enter into a heterosexual or same-sex civil union with anyone who is not a relative as defined in the law providing that they are not still legally bound by the Hawaii Reciprocal Beneficiaries Law of 1997. That law most likely will only apply to residents of Hawaii since the benefits derived from it were all state benefits. (If previously registered in a reciprocal beneficiary relationship, proof of termination must be provided to the civil union agent prior to the issuance of a civil union license if the termination occurred within 30 days of applying for the civil union license.)
Visitors to Hawaii who are already legally bound by a domestic partnership or civil union in other states or countries may find that Hawaii recognizes their relationship. Should, however, they wish to enter into a civil union in Hawaii, they must first terminate their legal relationship elsewhere. Likewise, anyone who has been legally married must provide proof of divorce or death of spouse before they can enter into a civil union in Hawaii.
There are no state residence of U.S. citizenship requirements and no blood tests are required to enter into a civil union in Hawaii.
Who Can Perform the Ceremony?
The law states that a civil union is valid only upon completion of a solemnization by a person licensed in accordance with the law by the Department of Health. That person can be any judge or retired judge, including a federal judge or judge of another state, any ordained or licensed member of the clergy, or an other person licensed by the State of Hawaii to do so. All parties who wish to perform civil union ceremonies are required to be licensed by the state to do so. It is important that visitors make sure that the person that they have elected to perform their civil union ceremony is indeed licensed to do so.
What is the Process?
Once and your partner have established that you are eligible to enter into a civil union in Hawaii, and decided on which island you wish to have the ceremony performed, and perhaps even selected the person who will perform the ceremony, the process is rather straight forward.
You and your partner complete an application online and pay the application fee. Once you arrive in Hawaii, you must meet with a civil union agent to review the information on the application and confirm your identity.
You can then proceed with the ceremony with your licensed performer or officiant and additional information must be entered online. A copy of a civil union certificate can be printed online by the performer or officiant or the couple. The Department of Health will also do a final review and mail an official civil union certificate to the couple.
How to Obtain a Civil Union License
The easiest way for visitors to apply for a license is online at civilunion.ehawaii.gov. Applications are also available in person from civil union agents and Department of Health office locations on Oahu and the neighbor islands.
The fee is $60.00 plus a $5.00 administrative fee. If applying in person, both partners must be present and you must obtain the application in the county (island) in which the civil union ceremony will take place. Proper identification is required. No mail or email applications are accepted. Once obtained, the civil union license is valid only in the State of Hawaii and expires after 30 days.
As of the writing of this article, a list of the civil union agents in each county is not available, but this writer assumes that once your online application is approved, you will be provided with the proper contact information.
The Hawaii Department of Health has additional information on their website which may assist you in the process.
For the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of marriage agents in the rural and suburban areas of Oahu - call (808) 586-4544.
For the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of marriage agents on the neighbor islands - call the local office of the Department of Health:
Hawaii (Big Island) - (808) 974-6008
Kauai - (808) 241-3498
Maui - (808) 984-8210
Molokai - (808) 553-3200
For more information on how the Hawaii Civil Unions bill came to be, you may enjoy our feature Hawaii Civil Unions - An Historical Perspective.