LGBT rights in Hawaii

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Map of USA HI.svg
Hawaii (US)
StatusLegal since 1973
(Legislative repeal)
GenderYes, transgender people allowed to change gender
DiscriminationBoth sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsSame-sex marriage since 2013;
Civil unions since 2012;
Reciprocal beneficiary relationships since 1997
AdoptionYes, both joint and stepchild adoption

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the U.S. state of Hawaii enjoy all of the same rights as non-LGBT people. Same-sex sexual activity has been legal since 1973; Hawaii being one the first six states to legalize it. Following the approval of the Hawaii Marriage Equality Act in November 2013, same-sex couples have been allowed to marry on the islands. Additionally, Hawaiian laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity. The use of conversion therapy on minors has been banned since July 2018. Gay and lesbian couples enjoy the same rights, benefits and treatment as opposite-sex couples, including the right to adopt.[1]

Same-sex relationships have been part of Hawaiian culture for centuries. The term aikāne refers to homosexual or bisexual relationships, which were widely accepeted in pre-colonial Hawaiian society, and the term māhū refers to a third gender alongside male and female. The Christian missionaries, who arrived in the 19th century, were adept in converting the local population to Christianity. As a result, the first ever anti-gay law was enacted in 1850, prohibiting sodomy with 20 years hard labor. During the 1960s and onwards, LGBT rights entered into the public eye, which was followed by multiple pro-LGBT rights reforms, including the repeal of the sodomy law.

In modern times, Hawaii is notable for its LGBT-friendliness, with several establishments, accommodations, and festivals catering especially for gay tourists and couples.[2] Recent opinion polls have found that same-sex marriage enjoys very high levels of support.[3]

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Hawaii repealed its sodomy law in April 1972,[4] and revised its sex offences laws in 1986 following a Supreme Court ruling which defended a Georgia ban on sodomy.[5] The original sodomy law repeal was effective from the beginning of 1973.[6]

Recognition of same-sex unions[edit]

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender
Rights in Hawaii
Flag of Hawaii.svg

Baehr v. Lewin (1993)
Baehr v. Miike (1996, 1999)
Constitutional Amendment 2 (1998)
House Bill 444 (2009)
Senate Bill 232 (2011)
Hawaii Marriage Equality Act (2013)

Equality Hawaii

LGBT rights in the United States
Same-sex marriage in Hawaii
Reciprocal beneficiary relationships in Hawaii
LGBT history in Hawaii

Portal LGBT.svg LGBT Portal

Same-sex marriage legislation[edit]

On September 9, 2013, Governor Neil Abercrombie announced that he was calling the Hawaii State Legislature into special session on October 28 to consider a same-sex marriage bill.[7] The bill had wide support in the Senate as well as the required majority in the House.[8] If approved, the bill would take effect on November 18.[9]

On October 28, the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor passed the same-sex marriage legislation in a 5-2 vote, sending the bill to a full Senate vote.[10] On October 30, the Senate approved the legislation in a 20-4 vote, sending the bill to the House.[11] On October 31, the bill was debated by both the House Committee on Judiciary and the House Committee on Finance. The House, following extensive public debate and an attempted "citizens' filibuster" of the legislation,[12] voted 30–19 on November 8 in favour of the legislation.[13][14] The bill returned to the Senate for approval of House amendments which expanded religious exemptions, and the Senate provided final legislative approval on November 12, voting 19–4 for passage to the desk of the Governor.[15] Governor Neil Abercrombie signed the bill into law on 13 November; same-sex couples began marrying on December 2, 2013.[16]

History prior to same-sex marriage[edit]

Hawaii's denial of marriage licenses to same-sex marriage couples was challenged in court in 1993. In 1994, the state enacted a statute banning same-sex marriage.[17] In November 1998, the voters of Hawaii voted 69 percent in favor of Hawaii Constitutional Amendment 2, which amended the State Constitution to allow the Legislature to ban same-sex marriage.[18] The constitutional amendment led the Hawaii Supreme Court to dismiss the lawsuit.[17]

Hawaii established reciprocal beneficiary relationships, a limited form of civil unions, for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples in 1997. Numerous legislative attempts to enact fuller civil unions equivalent with other jurisdictions' civil unions and domestic partnerships failed.

Governor Linda Lingle vetoed a civil union law in 2010.[19] Governor Neil Abercrombie signed the same legislation on February 23, 2011, the first law he signed as governor. The law went into effect on January 1, 2012.[20]

Hawaii has provided benefits to same-sex partners of state employees since 1997.[21]

Adoption and parenting[edit]

Hawaii allows all couples, including same-sex couples to adopt. Additionally, lesbian couples can get access to IVF and artificial insemination treatment and surrogacies are allowed for gay male couples as well.[22]

Discrimination protections[edit]

Hawaii law explicitly prohibits discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment, public accommodations and housing.[23]

The discrimination protections for sexual orientation in employment were added in 1991. In 2005, protections were extended to housing and in 2006 to public accommodations, both for sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. In 2011, gender identity or expression protections were extended to employment.[24]

Moreover, the state's anti-bullying law prohibits bullying on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, gender identity and expression, religion, physical and mental disability, sexual orientation, physical appearance and characteristic and socio-economic status. The law also explicitly includes cyberbullying and harassment, and applies to all public elementary schools and secondary school premises.[25]

In July 2018, the Hawaii Legislature passed a bill, which was then signed into law by the Governor of Hawaii, to further protect all students under the explicit "Title IX clause", meaning that Hawaii now has some of the strongest legal protections for LGBT students in the United States. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2019.[26][27]

Hate crime law[edit]

Participants at the 2012 Honolulu Pride parade

Hawaii has a law that addresses hate crime protection for both actual and/or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

According to the statute:

  • Sexual orientation is defined as heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality and those "having a history of any one or more of these preferences or being identified with any one or more of these preferences."[28]
  • Gender identity or expression "includes a person's actual or perceived gender, as well as a person's gender identity, gender-related self image, gender-related appearance, or gender-related expression; regardless of whether that gender identity, gender-related self image, gender-related appearance, or gender-related expression is different from that traditionally associated with the person's sex at birth."[29]

Gender identity and expression[edit]

Previously, Hawaii's Department of Health issued a new birth certificate to a post-operative transsexual only upon receipt of a physician's affidavit verifying that the registrant had undergone sex reassignment surgery.[30] On May 5, 2015, the Hawaii Legislature passed a bill to allow transgender people to change their gender on their birth certificates without undergoing such surgery. Hawaii Governor David Ige signed the bill into law on July 14, 2015, and the legislation went into effect immediately.[31][32][33]

Since July 1, 2016, Hawaii has also banned discrimination against gender identity or expression within insurance contracts.[34] This also must include sex reassignment surgery.[35]

Conversion therapy[edit]

Since 2013, several bills had been introduced in Hawaii to legally ban conversion therapy on minors, but the bills went nowhere or lapsed for years.

In April 2018, both the Hawaii House of Representatives and the Hawaii Senate passed a bill that legally bans conversion therapy on minors. Due to different versions, the House and the Senate convened in a conference committee.

In May 2018, the conference committee passed one version of the bill into a single concise format that was unanimously agreed to and the bill was subsequently signed into law by Governor David Ige. The law went into effect on July 1, 2018.[36][37]

Public opinion and demographics[edit]

A 2013 Williams Institute survey showed that 5.1% of the Hawaii adult population identified as LGBT. This was the highest in the United States, behind only the District of Columbia (10%).[38]

A 2017 Public Religion Research Institute poll found that 68% of Hawaii residents supported same-sex marriage, while 20% were opposed and 12% were unsure.[3] Additionally, 74% supported the anti-discrimination law covering sexual orientation and gender identity. 13% were opposed.

Summary of LGBT rights[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1972)
Equal age of consent Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in every area Yes (Both sexual orientation and gender identity or expression)
Same-sex marriage Yes (Since 2013)
Recognition of same-sex couples (e.g. civil unions) Yes (Since 1997)
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2012)
Joint adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2012)
Lesbians, gays and bisexuals allowed to serve openly in the military Yes (Since 2011)
Transgender people allowed to serve openly in the military Yes (Since 2018)
Right to change legal gender Yes
LGBT anti-bullying law in schools and colleges Yes
LGBT-inclusive sex education required to be taught in schools No
Conversion therapy banned on minors Yes (Since 2018)
Third gender option No
Intersex minors protected from invasive surgical procedures No
Access to IVF for lesbians Yes
Homosexuality declassified as an illness Yes
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples Yes
Altruistic surrogacy for gay male couples Yes
MSMs allowed to donate blood Yes/No (1 year deferral period; federal policy)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Hawaii passes gay marriage: married same-sex couples soon eligible for federal benefits". 2012-12-14. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  2. ^ Hawaii and the LGBT Community
  3. ^ a b PRRI: American Values Atlas 2017, Hawaii
  4. ^ William N. Eskridge, Dishonorable Passions: Sodomy Laws in America, 1861-2003 (NY: Penguin Group, 2008), 201, available online, accessed April 9, 2011
  5. ^ "The History of Sodomy Laws in the United States: Hawaii". Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  6. ^ "Sodomy laws in US states prior to 2003". January 28, 1998. Archived from the original on December 16, 2013. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  7. ^ "Gov. Abercrombie Calls Special Session on Marriage Equity". Governor of Hawaii. September 9, 2013.
  8. ^ "Hawaii Legislature Has Votes to Pass Same-Sex Marriage". Civil Beat. September 6, 2013.
  9. ^ SB1, Relating to Equal Rights, Hawaii Legislature
  10. ^ Blair, Chad; Eagle, Nathan (2013-10-29). "Hawaii Same-Sex Marriage Bill Passes Senate Panel". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2013-10-30.
  11. ^ Wendy, Osher (2013-10-30). "Breaking: Same-Sex Marriage Bill Passes Senate in 20-4 Vote". Maui Now. Retrieved 2013-10-30.
  12. ^ Lazo, Alejandro (2013-11-09). "In Hawaii, 'Citizens' Filibuster' Targets Gay-Marriage Bill". Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  13. ^ "House votes to pass Marriage Equality Bill". Hawaii 24/7. November 6, 2013. Retrieved November 7, 2013.
  14. ^ "State House advances same-sex marriage bill after long session". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. November 7, 2013. Retrieved November 7, 2013.
  15. ^ Zuckerman, Esther (2013-11-12). "Hawaii legislature sends same-sex marriage bill to Governor's desk". Archived from the original on November 17, 2013. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  16. ^ Associated Press in Honolulu. "Hawaii looks to welcome more visitors after Gov. signs gay marriage into law". Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  17. ^ a b "Hawaii Court Lets Gay Marriage Ban Stand". New York Times. December 10, 1989. Retrieved August 27, 2013.
  18. ^ Hawai'i State Constitution, Article I, section 23, Hawaii Legislative Reference Bureau. (Accessed 30 November 2006).
  19. ^ TIME: Suzanne Roig, "Hawaii Governor Vetoes Civil-Unions Bill," July 7, 2010, accessed April 13, 2011
  20. ^ Huffington Post: Mark Niesse, "Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie Signs Same-Sex Civil Unions Into Law," February 23, 2011, accessed April 13, 2011
  21. ^ National Conference of State Legislatures: "States offering benefits for same-sex partners of state employees", accessed April 16, 2011
  22. ^ Human Rights Campaign: Hawaii Adoption Law Archived June 5, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, accessed July 13, 2011
  23. ^ Haw. Rev. Stat. 515-2 – 7; Haw. Rev. Stat. §378-1 – 3; Haw. Rev. Stat. §489-2 - 3.
  24. ^ LGBTQ Nation: "Hawaii Governor signs transgender workplace protections bill into law," May 6, 2011, accessed July 23, 2011
  25. ^ HB688
  26. ^ "Hawaii governor signs law protecting LGBTQ students under Ttitle IX". MetroWeekly. July 17, 2018.
  27. ^ HB1489
  28. ^ Haw. Rev. Stat. § 846-51 (2001). Other relevant provisions include Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 706-662; 846-54; and 846-52 (2001).
  29. ^ Haw. Rev. Stat. § 846-51, S.B. 616, 2003 Leg., 22nd Leg. (Haw. 2003).
  30. ^ Haw. Rev. Stat. § 338-17.7.
  31. ^ [ap], CATHY BUSSEWITZ (2015-05-05). "Hawaii legislature approves bill allowing birth certificate gender changes". LGBTQ Nation. Retrieved 2018-06-15.
  32. ^ "Hawaii State Legislature". Retrieved 2018-06-15.
  33. ^ "HB 631 - Hawaii 2015 Regular Session - Open States". Open States. Retrieved 2018-06-15.
  34. ^ "Hawaii State Legislature". Retrieved 2018-06-15.
  35. ^ Press, CATHY BUSSEWITZ, Associated (2016-04-27). "Hawaii bans insurance discrimination against transgender patients". LGBTQ Nation. Retrieved 2018-06-15.
  36. ^ Campaign, Human Rights. "Hawaii Legislature Passes Bill to Protect LGBTQ Youth | Human Rights Campaign". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved 2018-06-15.
  37. ^ "Measure Status". Retrieved 2018-06-15.
  38. ^ LGBT Percentages Highest in Washington, DC, and Hawaii