Late Friday, the Hawaii House voted 31-19 to pass a bill that would legalize civil unions.
A large group of civil unions supporters and a smaller number of opponents gathered in the House chamber for the vote. The measure passed 31-19, one member, Rep. Rida Cabanilla, was not present.
The House voted on a version of Senate Bill 232, which was amended by the House Judiciary Committee to include clarifying changes recommended by the attorney general. The bill now goes back to the Senate, which is expected to accept the House amendments and send the bill directly to the governor as early as next week.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie has said he considers equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians to be a civil rights.
If singed, the bill could be in effect by Jan. 1, 2012.