After a long battle, today the Hawaii Legislature finally approved a bill allowing civil unions for same-sex couples. Governor Neil Abercrombie says he plans to sign the bill within 10 days, making Hawaii the seventh state to grant gay couples essentially the same rights as married couples, without actually using the word "marriage."
For those keeping score, five states and the District of Columbia currently allow same-sex marriage, but just legalizing civil unions has been a struggle in Hawaii. According to the Associated Press, the fight for gay rights first came to a head in the state in 1993, when the state Supreme Court nearly legalized gay marriage. Five years later, the nation's first "defense of marriage" constitutional amendment passed in Hawaii with 69 percent of the vote. Just last year, the Hawaii Legislature passed a similar bill that would have granted gay couples the same rights as married people, but Republican Governor Linda Lingle vetoed it.