KIHEI A gay Oklahoma City couple is happy to be on Maui and among the first couples to be joined in a civil union after a state law allowing such unions went into effect Sunday.
"We are proud to be part of it," said 40-year-old Rich Tucker, a mortgage company owner, shortly before his Monday sunset ceremony with partner 37-year-old David Dobson, a Realtor.
Tucker said he and Dobson wanted to go "somewhere tropical" to do a commitment ceremony and had settled on Maui. They chose the Valley Isle after a friend and former Maui resident recommended its beautiful scenery and its loving and accepting people, which the couple said is "absolutely" true.
Oklahoma City couple David Dobson, 37, (left) and Rich Tucker, 40, smile as Kevin Rebelo of gayhawaiiwedding.com adjusts Tucker’s lei. The couple entered into a civil union, just a day after a new law went into effect Sunday that allows same-sex and opposite-sex couples to have the same state rights and responsibilities as traditional marriages.
The Maui News / MELISSA TANJI photo
Later while planning their trip, the couple found out that while on Maui civil unions for same-sex couples in Hawaii would be legal.
At first, it wasn't pure joy for Dobson, who like many people was nervous contemplating such a big commitment. But he thought about his relationship and said he and Tucker had been together for four years, and he judged it was time to take the next step.
"It's just a legal extension of what we have. It makes it real," Dobson said, prior to the ceremony at Poolenalena Beach in Makena.
The first same-sex couples to be joined in civil unions in Hawaii had their ceremonies on Oahu early Sunday morning after the law went into effect and the online process for applying for the unions was activated at midnight. The online process allows couples to submit applications, pay fees and receive civil union certificates online.
Hawaii is the seventh state in the nation to allow same-sex couples to enter civil unions.
Kevin Rebelo, co-owner of gayhawaiiwedding.com, a wedding business based in South Maui, was excited to see the Oklahoma City couple joined together in a civil union.
"It's awesome. (It's) a first step. We're going to work on full marriage equity till we get federal rights," said Rebelo, who was taking photos of the couple at the Maui Sunseeker LGBT Resort where they were staying. Rebelo also helped coordinate the ceremony.
Rebelo and partner Frank Miholer, who co-owns the wedding business, have been advocates of the new law that allows for the same state rights and responsibilities as traditional marriages.
Rebelo and Miholer were married in South Africa, where gay marriage is legal. They will also enter into a civil union in Hawaii.
Chuck Spence, owner of the Maui Sunseeker, and General Manager Michael Waddell were pleased as well to see the Oklahoma couple united legally and believed that the couple is the first, or one of the first, same-sex couples to enter into a civil union on Maui.
Waddell said that so far 10 couples have booked rooms to stay at the Sunseeker and have a civil union ceremony on Maui.
Dobson and Tucker, both wearing white linen shirts and khaki slacks, were all smiles as they posed for photos prior to their ceremony. They also had matching diamond bands.
"It's awesome to have accepting people that accept everyone. No one is segregated," Tucker said about Hawaii and the civil unions law.
Dobson added: "In Oklahoma, it's still very much the Bible Belt."
He said it is hard being gay when politically it is frowned upon in their state, although their families and co-workers all know they're gay.
Tucker said Dobson would move "in a heartbeat" but for him; it would be hard to uproot his business.
Even though the Hawaii civil union will not be recognized in Oklahoma, the two were pleased to enter into the union in Hawaii.
The couple said their anniversary date will be an easy one to remember, Jan. 2, 2012, or one two, one two.
"That will keep me out of trouble," chimed in Dobson with a laugh.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.