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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriages & civil unions in Hawaii

Reactions to Governor
Lingle's veto of HB 444.
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Statements by candidates for governor:

Governor Lingle has served two terms and is ineligible for a third. A new governor will be elected on Election Day, 2010-NOV. As expected, history repeated itself. The legislature repeated its 2010-APR activity by passing a bill simlar to HB 444 during the 2011 session. The bill will arrive on the desk of Neil Abercrombie's -- the new governor of the state. He has indicated that he will sign it nto law.

The civil union question is every politician's nightmare. The public is seriously divided over the issue. Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips of Columbia University compared the percentage support for both same-sex marriages and civil unions for each state in the U.S using all available data. They concluded in 2009 that Hawaii rated 10th in terms of acceptance of civil unions and 9th in support same-sex marriage among the 50 states. They estimated that there was 48% support for same-sex marriage and 57% support for civil unions in the state. The numbers will probably be slightly higher in 2011 due to the long-term trend of increasing acceptance of equal rights for lesbians, gays and bisexuals in the nation. This still leaves a sizeable minority of the public who would prefer that same-sex couples be treated only as roommates and their children considered as illegitimate. Since passions run high on the matter, political parties can expect some shift in voting patterns as a result of whatever happens to civil unions in the future.

Thus, the decision whether Hawaii will have civil unions may well again rest upon the opinion of one person -- the governor. The current opinions of the candidates for governor are thus important:

  • Neil Abercrombie, Democratic candidate for governor of Hawaii, said that HB 444 was not a same-sex marriage bill. If he had been governor, he would have signed it into law. 10 He said:
    "Civil unions respect our diversity, protect people's privacy, and reinforce our core values of equality and aloha. It will be up to the next governor and legislature to ensure that all people of Hawaii receive equal treatment." 8

    "Aloha" has a variety of meanings: affection, love, peace, compassion and mercy, hello, goodby, I love you, the name of an impact crater on the moon, and "Area Locations of Hazardous Atmospheres." We suspect that he meant a combination of the first five meanings.
  • Mufi Hannemann, mayor of Hololulu and Democratic candidate for governor said that he:
    "... firmly support steps to let the people of Hawaii have the final say on an issue that has generated passionate perspectives. I continue to believe that marriage between a man and a woman is sacrosanct. That said, as someone who has fought to overcome prejudice, I would also continue to champion the civil rights of all citizens and seek to end discrimination-in employment, housing, health care, and areas where it still exists-irrespective of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religious preference." 8
    This comment appears ambiguous and a little confusing. The first sentence seems to imply that he is in favor of a referendum of some sort. But it is not clear what the topic would be. Some are calling for a constitutional amendment on whether marriage will be restricted to a union of one woman and one man; others are calling for a simple plebescite on whether civil unions should be implemented. Hannemann's second sentence talks about marriage. However, HB 444, the bill in question, relates to civil unions, and does not affect the rights of opposite-sex married couples. The final sentence refers to an ending of discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientaiton. Vetoing the bill preserves discrimination against same-sex couples.

    Tim Sakahara of (or as we prefer to call it HawaiiNewSnow) noticed this lack of clarity. He asked the candidate how he would have reacted to HB 444 if he had been in Governor Lingle's place. Again Hannemann answered ambiguously:
    "(House Bill) 444 would have been problematic for me if that bill would have weakened the institution of marriage between a man and a woman." 10

    Again, HB 444 relates to the rights given to couples who enter a civil union and is unrelated to the rights of opposite-sex couples getting married. So his use of the "if" word makes his response devoid of meaning.

    However, Hannemann did say that he would not have signed the bill into law. He would either have vetoed the bill or allowed it to pass into law by default.

    Tim Sakahara quotes Hannemann as saying:
    "That's ...[my] consistent position, on how I've always felt ever since I've been in public life on traditional marriage and secondly when I was queried about [HB] 444, if you go back and check the record long before Governor Lingle issued her statement yesterday, that has always been my position.  The only new element she has introduced is she says put it to a vote. That's the only new thing she put out yesterday and I said I can support that."

    Sakahara wrote:

    "The record shows he's for traditional marriage but it still isn't clear about civil unions which is why republicans say if Hannemann can't make a firm decision he can't be trusted."

    " 'We hear him behind the scenes telling one side he's for it and the other side he's against it, but the question is Mufi as much as you've been for tax and spend here in the State of Hawaii make the same decision on HB 444. It's a yes or no answer that's really what it is," said Jonah Kaauwai, Hawaii Republican Party Chairman.  "On such a divisive issue, an important issue here in the State of Hawaii leadership is expected to be able to stand on their values but obviously I think to voters it shows Mufi doesn't have any values and it's really going to work on whether the voters can actually trust him." 10

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In mid 2010-JUL, at a meeting with the editors and reporters of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Hannemann clarified his position by saying that if he had to make the decision that former Governor Lingle had to make on bill HB 444, he would definitely have rejected it. He said:

    "If that bill continues to be tantamount to marriage - between a man and a man or a woman and a woman - I could not sign it. I would not sign it."

He also said he would consider a bill to enlarge the benefits given to registered couples in the existing reciprocal beneficiaries law.

Hannemann also said that the voters of Hawaii should decide the fate of same-sex "marriage" and civil unions at the ballot box with a constitutional amendment.

According to LifeSiteNews:

    "Former Rep. Annelle Amaral told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser earlier in July that the impact of Christian votes at the ballot box could be huge. 'I had all the Christians out with signs saying I voted for same-sex marriage and not to vote for me,' Amaral told the journal, explaining that it led to her defeat. She added, 'Conservative groups are incredibly strong. The churches are already organized'." 13

The Democratic primary will be held in mid 2010-SEP. A poll conducted by Hawaii News Now and the Honolulu Star Advertiser shows that Neil Abercrombie has a 5 percentage point lead over Mufi Hannemann. However, the poll size was small at only 425 persons. 14

  • Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, a long-time opponent of civil unions and a second Republican candidate for governor said that if he were elected, he would propose a constitutional amendment "so the people can define marriage once and for all." Hawaiian News Now stated:

    "Aiona commended the governor for making 'a courageous decision' to veto the bill. But he also blasted the legislature for trying to put pressure on the governor by not calling for a special session to override vetoes. 'To put that kind of pressure on one person, especially during an election year, and knowing how this issue is falling, that's just totally unfair,' Aiona said."

    We are at a loss to understand this statatement. It is not clear how the legislature not attempting to override vetos would apply pressure to the present governor.

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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. Emma Ruby-Sachs, "Lingle vetoes Hawaii Civil Unions, threatens tax base and equal rights, the Huffington Post, 2010-JUL-07, at:
  2. Herbert A. Sample, "Hawaii Governor vetoes civil unions bill after weeks of stalling," The Huffington Post, 2010-JUL-06, at:
  3. Ask Dr. Ruth's twitter was at on 2010-JUL-07 at 6:18 PM ET.
  4. "ACLU-HI & Lambda Legal press release: HB444 Veto," Email, 2010-JUL-06.
  5. "Hawaii Governor to Decide Fate of Civil Unions, No ‘Veto Override’ Session," CitizenLink, 2010-JUL-06, at:
  6. "Surf and marriage turf," Email, Family Research Council, 2010-JUL-07
  7. "Same Sex Marriage Rights Bill Vetoed By Hawaii Governor. Gov. Linda Lingle says it's an issue that should be decided by popular vote," KTLA News, Losangeles. 2010-JUL-07, at:
  8. Ben Gutierrez, "Gubernatorial candidates react to civil union veto," Hawaii News Now, 2010-JUL-07, at:
  9. Mari-Ela David, "Emotions run high after Governor's civil union veto," Hawaii News Now, 2010-JUL-07, at:
  10. Tim Sakahara, "Hannemann still hasn’t come out on civil union decision," Hawii News Now, 2010-JUL-08, at:
  11. "Hawaii governor faces legal action over civil union," Radio New Zealand, 2010-JUL-08, at:
  12. Karen Ocamb, "Should Angelenos boycott Hawaii over civil unions veto? Or is Hawaii the next marriage battleground state?," LGBT POV, at:
  13. Peter J. Smith, "Hawaii Democratic Primary for Governor Splits Over Same-sex Marriage," LifeSiteNews, 2010-JUL-20, at:
  14. Tim Sakahara, "Abercrombie, Schatz lead in recent poll for Hawaii Democratic primary," Hawaiian News Now, 2010-AUG-22, at:

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Copyright © 2010 & 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2010-JUL-07
Latest update and review: 2011-FEB-14
Author: B.A. Robinson

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