Planning a Commitment Ceremony – Hawaii 7th State to Recognize Civil Unions
There are as many types of commitment ceremonies as there are reasons for two people to want to perform one.
Wedding ceremonies have at least one factor in common, they must be performed by a minister, officiate or judge licensed by the state in order to make them legally binding. Commitment ceremonies in many states are not legally binding, which gives everyone involved the liberty to choose to honor traditional customs associated with wedding ceremonies or completely make up their own rituals.
Commitment ceremonies are most often associated with same gender couples. However, many opposite gender couples who have various reasons for not wanting to legally “tie the knot” are turning to commitment ceremonies to affirm their dedication and love for each other.
January 2012 – Hawaii Honors Civil Unions
Hawaii lawmakers approved a bill Wednesday February 23, 2011 to allow civil unions for same-sex couples, marking an end to what the governor called an “emotional process” for a longtime battleground in the gay rights movement.
The legislation provides that equal rights and responsibilities of married couples in Hawaii be afforded to thousands of non-married couples in the state – including same-sex couples. The law takes effect January 1, 2012.
The Human Rights Campaign and Equality Hawaii have worked closely together since 2008 to build both public and legislative support for civil unions. Through this joint effort, tens of thousands of phone calls, emails, postcards, petitions and handwritten letters have been sent to legislators urging them to approve this legislation.
I have always believed that civil unions respect our diversity, protect people’s privacy, and reinforce our core values of equality and aloha.”
For me, this bill represents equal rights for all the people of Hawaii. I appreciate all the time and effort invested by those who shared their thoughts and concerns regarding civil unions in Hawaii.” — Governor Neil Abercrombie.
Hawaii joins thirteen other states plus Washington, D.C. with laws providing an expansive form of state-level relationship recognition for same-sex couples. Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington D.C. provide marriage to same-sex couples under state law. New York and Maryland recognize out-of-jurisdiction same-sex marriages, but do not provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples in state. Five other states—California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington —provide same-sex couples with access to almost all of the state level benefits and responsibilities of marriage, through either civil unions or domestic partnerships.
Recently Hawaii legislation approved a bill that provides equal rights and responsibilities of married couples in Hawaii to thousands of non-married couples in the state – including same-sex couples. The law takes effect January 1, 2012.
The Exchange of Vows
The central element of both marriage and commitment ceremonies is the exchange of vows. The nature of these vows should be the guiding principle for the theme or atmosphere of the rest of the celebration. Some couple’s relationship lends itself to having a big party for their “going public”. Others may want a formal wedding-like event in a church or chapel complete with tuxedo’s and gowns, rice thrown and champagne corks popping. Very popular these days is a simple ceremony with the couple, an officiate who need not be licensed and may be just a trusted friend, and a few close relatives and friends.
The power of the commitment ceremony, however it is conducted, comes from making mutual declarations of love, commitment and loyalty spoken aloud in front of a third party (the minister) or the couple’s extended social group. These public vows stem from oaths and promises made privately within the intimacy of the couples precious realizations of the depths of their love. The courage and beauty of these public commitments are the true cause for the celebration surrounding this ceremony.
When planning a commitment ceremony, start with the vows and expand outward as far as is comfortable. If the relationship is based on lots of socializing or sports activity, then the vows and ceremony need to include at least some of the people who share that kind of fun. On the other hand, the partners may be very private people, perhaps basing their relationship on shared spiritual values or mutual support in dealing with personal difficulties.
Whatever the motivation, there is no wrong way to plan a commitment ceremony. Whatever satisfies the needs of each person in the union is the right way to do it.