Love Makes A Family
legal rights of same-gender couples in Hawai'i
that are available under the "reciprocal beneficiary" status

Same-gender couples and their families have stood witness to the proposition that love can conquer bigotry. In Hawai'i their peaceful struggle has brought some very real successes, with more to come.

In 1997 Hawai'i adopted a body of legislation granting equal rights to same-gender couples and their families in most areas of the law. Additional rights have been granted since then, and more are expected in the future.

For the first time, these laws have had the effect of legally recognizing same-gender families, including in-laws. Where the rights of same-gender and different-gender couples, spouses, and families in Hawai'i still differ is in other laws not summarized here.

The first group of the new equal-rights laws are those that grant rights and benefits that are quite important but are generally intangible in value. They are of great emotional value, and at times they also have economic value. Examples of these benefits are the equal right with different-gender couples to be able to visit your spouse in a hospital or make medical decisions when necessary.

Simply being recognized as a legal couple is perhaps the most important of the new benefits in this category. As the Hawai'i legislative staff has written, the 1997 Act "provides certain rights and benefits, and represents a commitment to provide substantially similar government rights to those couples who are [still] barred by law from marriage."

A second group of the new laws are those that carry substantial tangible value. Some of the categories in this group are:

A third and final group of the new laws are those that grant rights of a more general nature. These laws involve a large number of rights that are of limited economic value when applied singly to a same-gender couple, but when grouped together add up to a major benefit.

For example, one of these rights is that if a public employee dies, then payment is made for any vacation time that may have been saved up but not used. The payment goes to whomever the employee had named. In many cases, however, no eligible person had been named. In those cases, the payment goes to the worker's spouse. The law now grants this right equally to same-gender spouses.

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