Hawaii Civil Unions Vetoed
Special Report - July 9, 2010
The governor of Hawaii has vetoed a controversial bill that would have extended the “rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities” of marriage to unmarried heterosexual and homosexual couples without calling the relationships “marriage.” The Hawaii legislature passed HB 444-Civil Unions in April. Currently, five states (New Jersey, California, Oregon, Nevada and Washington) extend all or most of the benefits of marriage to same-sex couples through similar civil union or domestic partnership laws.
In a two-page statement issued along with her veto on July 6, Governor Linda Lingle acknowledged that she is personally opposed to the legalization of same-sex “marriage,” which is banned under Hawaii law. But she went on to explain that her reason for vetoing the legislation, which she described as “marriage by another name,” had nothing to do with her personal beliefs or the political impact of her decision. “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,” Governor Lingle said. “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.” The governor continued, “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.”
In response to Governor Lingle’s veto of HB 444, Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Hawaii announced that they are working on a lawsuit. “We’re obviously disappointed that Governor Lingle has, once again, used her power to deny the people of Hawaii their civil rights,” said Laurie Temple, Staff Attorney for the ACLU. “Luckily for the people of Hawaii, however, our constitution prevents discrimination based on sexual orientation. If the Governor won’t honor her oath to uphold the constitution, the courts will.” According to the ACLU, legislation that would enact civil unions in Hawaii have been introduced in the state legislature every year since 2001.
Hawaii is one of 41 states, along with North Carolina, with laws banning same-sex “marriage,” and one of 30 states with constitutional language that defines marriage. Hawaii’s constitution was amended in 1998 to read, “The Legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples,” and the legislature later passed a law that bans same-sex “marriage” in the state.
North Carolina is one of 11 states with statutes to protect marriage, such as a Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), but without a constitutional Marriage Protection Amendment like those passed in 30 other states. Legislation that would have given North Carolinians the opportunity to vote on a Marriage Protection Amendment this coming November was introduced in the General Assembly for the seventh consecutive year in May 2010. As in years past, however, the measures have not been brought up for consideration.
To learn more on the nationwide battle over the definition of marriage, read our Spring 2010 article in Family North Carolina, “The Issue That Will Not Go Away.”
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