Hawaii is moving closer towards civil unions for gay couples.

A bill was approved by a legislative committee yesterday and will now go to the House soon for a full vote.

The House must approve the bill twice before it goes back to the Senate for approval on amendments.

It passed the Senate last month and new Democrat governor Neil Abercrombie has said he will sign it into law.

A civil unions bill failed in Hawaii last year when the then-governor Linda Lingle vetoed it. She compared civil unions to allowing siblings to marry.

The legislation will give gay couples almost all of the rights of marriage.

Religious campaigners have objected to the bill, with Allen Cardines Jr of the Hawaii Family Forum calling them a “dishonest attempt” to legalise gay marriage.

“They will not stop here with civil unions,” he said. “They’re really looking for same sex marriage. They know it; we know it; the people of Hawaii deserve to know it.”

Supporters of the bill argued that it would protect families and reduce homophobia, although some argued that civil unions were a “half measure”, compared to marriage.