HONOLULU - Two women are suing Hawaii in federal court because they want to be married and not simply have a civil union.
Hawaii's civil unions law takes effect at the start of the new year. But the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Honolulu on Wednesday by Natasha Jackson and Janin Kleid of Kapolei claims they are being denied their constitutional right to marry.
The law, approved by Gov. Neil Abercrombie in February, allows same-sex and opposite-sex couples to enter into a civil union with the same state rights and responsibilities as a traditional marriage.
"The civil union law is intended to be a substitute for marriage," the lawsuit said, but the couple claim it can't be, and they're being deprived a fundamental right.
They argued that in order to get certain federal benefits, they need to be married. Jackson was unable to get insurance coverage for Kleid under the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA, said John D'Amato, one of their attorneys.
"A marriage isn't just a bundle of rights," D'Amato said Thursday. "It's a special status that opens the door to a specific way of life."
During the four-year relationship, they "have experienced their share of vicissitudes, including serious health problems and the loss of jobs, but they have remained true to one another and steadfast in their relationship," the lawsuit said. "They pool their resources to share expenses and have been each other's main source of emotional support."
D'Amato said the women believe that heterosexual couples can choose between marriage and civil unions but couples like Jackson and Kleid only have one option.
Abercrombie spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said the state attorney general's office was reviewing the complaint.