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Same-sex marriages & civil unions in Hawaii

Re: HB 444: Governor Lingle vetoes bill

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2010-MAY-06: The final day arrives:

Governor Linda Lingle (R) had three options on MAY-06: to veto HB 444, to sign it into law, or do nothing. If she had choosen the latter, then the bill by default would have become law without her signature.

During the July Fourth celebration, held on 2010-JUL-05, she refused to tell reporters of her plans. But she did say that:

"I really thought about this more than I have thought about any other piece of legislation. It is a subject that has really touched the hearts and minds of everyone in Hawaii."

Tambry Young and Suzanne King are a same-sex couple who have been together for 29 years. They are raising a young daughter. Young said:

"We are hoping the governor is going to be there to support equality and the civil unions bill which really supports all families in Hawaii."

King said:

"It's a bipartisan issue. There is support on both sides. It's a good bill. It is the right thing to do."

Dennis Arakaki, of the Hawaii Family Forum -- a conservative Protestant Christian anti-civil unions group -- said that opponents have been praying all weekend that the governor will veto the civil unions bill. He said:

"About all we can do is hope and pray. I think the governor has made up her mind and she will let us know Tuesday."

Representatives of both sides spent MAY-06 at the state Capitol, waiting for the governor's decision. 6

An article on KITV's web site collected a number of postings from its readers:

  • Bluerate wrote: "Do the right thing Governor... Sign this bill (or let it be without signing)."

  • Local7 wrote: "If this PERVERTED BILL passes.......we are DEAD...we cant believe such a filthy bill can be brought to our busy GOV."

  • LesbianHIStateTaxPayer wrote: "For years our government has dragged it's feet when it comes to the equality behind many of our rights and liberties as American Citizens. Women were given the right to vote in 1920 & African Americans were given the same right in 1965. Well before these dates only white men were allowed to vote, sound fair to you? The Civil Union is long overdue to be made law. BTW, homosexuals pay taxes just like our heterosexual community. Let's be fair. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of happiness!"

  • HIStateTaxPayer wrote: "If this civil union issue was to benefit "all the families" and the "right thing to do" then the Federal lawmakers should be making this decision and not leave it to the State to decide. The Federal Government will not give any aid. The State can not afford to support the influx of both same sex and heterosexual couples to be placed into the Health Fund and would obtain less state tax money because their liability would be reduced. More tax money will be needed to support this decision."

  • Mputt wrote: "Why keep everyone hanging till the last minute? Tthere must be some kind of gain. Well you've gained whatever it was.....so tell us already. The suspense is so great I'm ready to stand on my head and crow like a chicken being invited to lunch by Colonel Sanders."

  • Abilenehilo wrote to of the Hawaii Family Forum: "@Dennis Arakaki: If you read this, personally I do not believe prayer does anything constructive, But as you do, why wouldn't you pray for a worldwide cause such as ending world hunger/poverty, ending wars, etc instead of praying for a continuation of discrimination? That's rather un-Christian like wouldn't you say?" 6

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Governor Lingle (R) vetos bill:

After 45 days of waiting, during the last hours of her authority to take action on the bill, she vetoed it. This violated a decision by the Hawaiian Supreme Court who had ruled that the state must grant same-sex couples and their children the same rights, privileges and protections as it gives to opposite-sex married couples. She also violated her oath of office which committed her to uphold the Hawaiian constitution. However, she went along with the strong preferences of her fellow Republicans.

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Governor Lingle issued the following statement on 2010-JUL-06:

"After months of listening to Hawaii’s citizens express to me in writing and in person their deeply held beliefs and heartfelt reasons for supporting or opposing the Civil Unions Bill, I have made the decision to veto HB 444.

I have been open and consistent in my opposition to same gender marriage and find that HB 444 is essentially marriage by another name.

However, I want to be clear that my personal opinion is not the basis for my decision against allowing this legislation to become law. Neither is my veto based on my religious beliefs or on the political impact it might have on me or anyone else of either political party in some future election.

I am vetoing this bill because I have become convinced that this issue is of such significant societal importance that it deserves to be decided directly by all the people of Hawaii.

The subject of this legislation has touched the hearts and minds of our citizens as no other social issue of our day. It would be a mistake to allow a decision of this magnitude to be made by one individual or a small group of elected officials.

And while ours is a system of representative government it also is one that recognizes that, from time to time, there are issues that require the reflection, collective wisdom and consent of the people and reserves to them the right to directly decide those matters. This is one such issue.

The legislative maneuvering that brought HB 444 to an 11th hour vote, on the final day of the session, via a suspension of the rules, after legislators lead the public to believe that the bill was dead, was wrong and unfair to the public they represent. After eight years of observing members of the Majority Party manipulate the legislative process when it suits them, I initially accepted their actions as business as usual. That was wrong too.

There has not been a bill I have contemplated more or an issue I have thought more deeply about during my nearly eight years as governor than HB 444 and the institution of marriage.

After listening to those both for and against HB 444 I have gained a new appreciation for just how deeply people of all ages and backgrounds feel on this matter, and how significantly they believe the issue will affect their lives.

Few could be unmoved by the poignant story told to me in my office by a young, Big Island man who recounted the journey he had taken to bring himself to tell his very traditional parents that he was gay. I was similarly touched by the mother who in the same office expressed anguish at the prospect of the public schools teaching her children that a same gender marriage was equivalent to their mother and father’s marriage.

In addition to meeting in person with citizens of differing opinions, I have read legal memos on both sides of the issue, some urging me to veto the bill because of unintended consequences and guaranteed years of court battles while others urged support for what they consider a legally sound bill that grants long overdue civil rights.

But in the end, it wasn’t the persuasiveness of public debates, the soundness of legal arguments, or the volume of letters and emails that convinced me to reach this decision. It was the depth of emotion felt by those on both sides of the issue that revealed to me how fundamental the institution of marriage is to our community. It is as fundamental to those who support marriage between two people of the same gender as it is to those who support marriage only between one man and one woman.

This is a decision that should not be made by one person sitting in her office or by members of the Majority Party behind closed doors in a legislative caucus, but by all the people of Hawaii behind the curtain of the voting booth.

As difficult as the past few weeks have been, I am comfortable with my decision while knowing full well that many will be disappointed by it.

And while some will disagree with my decision to veto this bill, I hope most will agree that the flawed process legislators used does not reflect the dignity this issue deserves, and that a vote by all the people of Hawaii is the best and fairest way to address an issue that elicits such deeply felt emotion by those both for and against.

I have done my very best to reach a reasoned decision in a manner that brings honor to the political process and that I hope a majority of people believe reflects the values of Hawaii." 7

There seem to be a few factual errors in Governor Lingle's statement:

  • Throughout her statement, she seems to imply that civil unions are equal to marriage. They are not, because "marriage" has a meaning in society that "civil union" does not. The question is often raised: how many married couples would trade in their marriage certificate for a civil union certificate. There is general agreement that very few would. This would be an interesting topic for a public opinion survey.

  • School teachers would not teach that " a same gender marriage was equivalent to their mother and father’s marriage." Rather, they would teach that loving, committed same-sex couples are not considered full citizens of Hawaii and are not allowed to marry.

  • In a democracy, citizens elect legislators to made decisions affecting the lives of everyone. That is their job.

  • The House legislators did not treat Bill HB 444 as dead. They merely suspended further consideration in order to give priority to more pressing economic concerns. Then, having dispensed with a series of economic bills, they finally took up HB 444 and passed it with a comfortable majority.

But the most important statement made by Governor Lingle is based on an assumption that we have never seen widely discussed in the media: should a simple majority of voters -- 50% plus one vote -- be sufficient to deny a subset of the population fundamental human rights? Should a simple majority define certain adults as less than full citizens by denying rights and protections for them and their children? If so, then no group is safe from a drastic reduction in their civil rights.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Tom Brower, "Hawaii Civil Union Bill in Hands of Major Opponent Duke Aiona," Hawaii Reporter, 2010-JUN-11, at: http://boss.hawaiireporter.com/
  2. "A bill for an act relating to state finances," Senate of Hawaii, at: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov
  3. "Civil Unions To Go On Potential Veto List. Law Requires Legislature To Be Informed Of Possible Vetoes," KITV-TV, 2010-JUN-18 at: http://www.kitv.com/
  4. Steve Williams, "Hawaii Governor Puts 'Historic' Civil Unions Bill On Potential Veto List," Care2, 2010-JUN-21, at: http://www.care2.com/
  5. "Hawaii’s civil unions bill placed on potential veto list, buying Gov. Lingle more time ," Taragana.com. 2010-JUN-21, at: http://blog.taragana.com/
  6. Denby Fawcett, "Governor To Decide Fate of Civil Unions Bill Tuesday: Supporters and Opponents Anxious to See if She Will Veto," KITV 4, 2010-JUL-05, at: http://www.kitv.com
  7. "Hawaii Governor Veto [sic] Civil Union bill," ETurboNews, 2010-JUL-06, at: http://www.eturbonews.com

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Copyright © 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2010-JAN-22
Latest update and review: 2010-JUL-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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