You asked whether, beginning January 1, 2012, Hawaii law authorized name changes based
on a civil union and, if so, what documents were required, and what name elections
may be made.
Beginning January 1, 2012, Hawaii authorized parties to a civil union to change their
middle or last names in the same manner as married persons. A certified copy of the
civil union certificate is acceptable evidence of the name change. Either party to
a civil union may choose to adopt the middle or last name legally used at any time
by either partner, or any combination of such names.
In February 2011, the Hawaiian Legislature approved legislation recognizing and establishing
procedures for civil unions of same-sex or opposite-sex couples. The Governor signed
the bill into law on February 23, 2011  The law went into effect on January 1, 2012. See Haw. Rev. Stat. § 572B.
Information on the website for the Hawaii State Department of Health, Office of Vital
Records indicates that on-line applications for civil union licenses were available
at 12:00 a.m. on January 1, 2012. See http://hawaii.gov/health/vital-records/vital-records/civilunion/index.html (last visited Jan. 27, 2012, and indicating an update on Jan. 13, 2012). After applying
for the license, both parties must appear in person before a civil union “agent” to
receive the actual license.  Once they have obtained the license, the parties must have a ceremony before the
license expires (usually 30 days from the date of issuance). Ceremonies may only be performed by persons licensed to do so by the Department of
After the ceremony is completed, the Department of Health will review and approve
the information submitted on-line by the civil union performer. The partners of the
civil union may obtain a certified copy of the civil union certificate from the Department
of Health.  “The Department of Health can provide certified copies of legal records to verify
civil union status in Hawaii to those who are entitled to receive copies pursuant
to state law. Certified copies of vital records are acceptable for legal and government
transactions.” See id.
The agency will accept documentation of a civil union as evidence of a name change
if the State issuing such document(s) authorizes the establishment of civil unions.
See Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RM 10212.040(A), RM 10212.055. However, the state must explicitly permit a name change based on
the civil union, or recognize civil unions as granting the same rights and benefits
as a marriage. See POMS RM 10212.040(A); see also POMS PR 02705.016 (Illinois) (specifying this general rule).
As of January 1, 2012, Hawaii began recognizing civil unions, whether established
in Hawaii or any other jurisdiction. Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 572B-2, 572B-10. The participants
in civil unions are called “partners,” and partners to a civil union have the “same
rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities” as granted to married couples.
Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 571B-1, 572B-9. A party to a civil union is included in the definition
or use of the term “spouse” and “other terms that denote the spousal relationship.”
Haw Rev. Stat. § 572B-11. In light of these provisions, Hawaii sufficiently recognizes
civil unions as granting the same rights and benefits as marriage.
A married couple’s right to adopt the middle or last name of the other spouse is a
right that extends to partners in a civil union, through application of Hawaii Revised
Statute §§ 572B-2 and 572B9. See Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 574-1, 574-5. After entering a civil union, each party may choose
as his or her middle or last name, the “middle or last name legally used at any time,
past or present, by either [partner], or any combination of such names, which may,
but need not, be separated by a hyphen.” Haw. Rev. Stat. § 574-1.
After the Hawaii State Department of Health accepts information that a civil union
ceremony was performed, parties to a civil union may request and obtain certified
copies of the civil union certificate. See http://hawaii.gov/health/vital-records/vital-records/civilunion/index.html. The Department of Health’s website states that certified copies of vital records
are acceptable for legal and governmental transactions. See id. Agency policy recognizes certified copies of original vital records as an acceptable
form of evidence. See POMS RM 10210.085(A).
The Department of Health provides a temporary on-line document as evidence of the
civil union until certified copies of the civil union certificate are available: “Agencies
that are provided the temporary certificate and the Locator ID.  by the couple will be able to access a secure Department of Health website to determine
that the civil union occurred.” See http://hawaii.gov/health/vital-records/vital-records/civilunion/ecurs.pdf. Hawaii also issues temporary on-line documents for marriages. See http://hawaii.gov/health/vital-records/vital-records/marriage/emrs.pdf (last visited Jan. 27, 2012). These temporary documents are not acceptable forms
of evidence for establishing the existence of the civil union or marriage. See POMS RM 10210.085(A).
Effective January 1, 2012, Hawaii Revised Statute § 572B provided partners to a civil
union the same rights and benefits available to married persons, including the right
to adopt the middle or last name of one’s partner. A Hawaii civil union certificate,
or a certified copy thereof, issued on or after January 1, 2012, is acceptable evidence
for a name change on SSA documents.