Hawaii governor Neil Abercrombie signed legislation Wednesday afternoon legalizing civil unions in the Aloha state.
The state senate passed the bill last week by an 18-5 vote. A similar bill was approved by the legislature in 2010 but vetoed by then-Gov. Linda Lingle after a long waiting period.
"This signing today of this measure says to all in the world that all are welcome – that everyone is a brother and a sister in paradise," Abercrombie said at the bill's signing.
"For me, this bill represents equal rights for everyone in Hawaii and everyone who comes here. This is for me the essence of the aloha spirit."
The governor spent about 10 minutes speaking before signing the bill, joking around with people in the audience and making clear this is an important bill for him.
"With its signing, I wanted to say, 'Welcome to the world. Welcome to paradise.'"
Civil unions aren't expected to go into effect until January 1, 2012.