HONOLULU, Hawaii, February 23, 2011 ( – The governor of Hawaii is scheduled to sign into law Wednesday a bill that would grant all the benefits of marriage to legally recognized homosexual unions.

The state legislature on Feb. 16 passed the measure, SB232, that states that partners in a civil union “shall have all the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities under law … as are granted to those who contract, obtain a license, and are solemnized pursuant to chapter 572,” which is the section of the Hawaii Revised Statutes governing marriage.

The bill passed the state Senate 18-5 after passing the House 31-19. Gov. Neil Abercrombie has said that he strongly supports the measure and would sign it once it reaches his desk.

“I have always believed that civil unions respect our diversity, protect people’s privacy and reinforce our core values of equality and aloha,” Abercrombie said in a statement.

The state will begin granting civil unions to homosexual couples starting on January 1, 2012. Hawaii joins California, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont, Oregon, and the District of Columbia in offering marriage-like benefits to homosexual couples engaged in a civil union.

In 1998, Hawaii voters approved a constitutional amendment affirming the state legislature’s power to preserve traditional marriage in law, which resulted in a law enshrining the definition in the state’s legal code.

An attempt last year to pass a similar same-sex civil unions bill, HB 444, was vetoed by then-Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican.