Legislation granting rights to same-sex couples will be considered by a Hawaii state Senate committee tomorrow.

Hawaii Family Forum, an umbrella group that provides “pro-family education, research, and resource material to the general public and the Christian community,” has called on people to lobby their Senators to have the bill withdrawn.

“Civil unions, same-sex marriages, and domestic partnerships have the same effect of destroying marriage as we know it,” the group said.

“When governments offer sex-partner benefits, they are essentially endorsing “gay marriage.” These sex-partner benefits send the message of government sanction of such relationships and take us one short step away from legalising “marriage” between two people of the same sex.

“Marriage by any other name is still marriage.”

The civil union bill was approved by the state House of Representatives by 33 votes to 17.

Same-sex partners will have to apply for a licence under legislation proposed by House Majority Leader Blake Oshiro, a Democrat.

Members of the clergy and judges, including retired judges, will be eligible to perform civil unions.

The legislation will have to be approved by the state Senate and signed by the Governor before it becomes law.

An attempt to legalise civil unions failed last year.

In 1998 Hawaii voters amended the state constitution to give the legislature the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples, which prevented the courts imposing gay marriage.

Gay and straight couples in Hawaii can already register a reciprocal beneficiary relationship with limited benefits.

At present gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts and Connecticut, while civil unions that carry all the state rights of marriage are legal in New Jersey, Vermont and New Hampshire.