by Rex Wockner -
SGN Contributing Writer
Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed a civil-union bill July 6 that would have granted same-sex couples all the rights, benefits, responsibilities, and obligations of marriage under a different name.
"I have been open and consistent in my opposition to same-gender marriage and find that House Bill 444 is essentially marriage by another name," Lingle said at a 3 p.m. news conference.
"I am vetoing this bill because I have become convinced that this issue is of such societal importance that it deserves to be decided by all the people of Hawaii," she said. "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. ... 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."
Lingle went on to criticize the way the bill had been passed in the House of Representatives.
"The legislative maneuvering that brought House Bill 444 to an 11th-hour vote on the final day of the session via a suspension of the rules, after legislators led the public to believe that the bill was dead, was wrong and unfair to the public they represent," she said. "This is a decision that should [be made] by all the people of Hawaii behind the curtain of the voting booth."
Lingle said she felt "very comfortable" with her veto, but added, "I would be surprised if this does not go on the next available ballot. ... I would encourage lawmakers to do it ... so that we can all move on."
Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union promptly announced they would file suit over the veto.
"We're obviously disappointed that Gov. 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."
Hawaii's constitution was amended by voters in 1998 to give the Legislature authority to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples, which it did. The amendment does not prohibit civil unions, or the Legislature's changing its mind. The amendment states: "The legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples."
Freedom to Marry called the veto "deeply disappointing" and said it "unnecessarily delays Hawaii's journey toward fairness and equality."
"Gov. Lingle has rejected the will of the state Legislature and the advice of countless business and faith leaders and turned her back on the committed couples and Hawaii kin who have expressed their support for this measure," said Executive Director Evan Wolfson. "Freedom to Marry urges the Hawaii state Legislature to overrule Gov. Lingle's veto."
Equality Hawaii's Alan Spector commented: "Today is a sad day for the thousands of Hawaii families who remain second-class citizens. We fail to see how the governor's actions are in the best interest of Hawaii's future and are nothing more than political maneuvering at the expense of people's lives. We're disappointed and outraged."
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey called the veto "a disgrace."
"Hawaii's lawmakers passed this bill because it was about fundamental fairness," she said. "The governor's action today flies in the face of both common sense and common humanity. We urge the Hawaii Legislature to override this veto."
Same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington, D.C.
Five additional states have domestic-partner or civil-union laws that extend to same-sex couples all state-level rights and obligations of marriage: California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington.
Five other states extend limited marital rights to registered same-sex couples: Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, and Wisconsin.
New York and Maryland recognize same-sex marriages from other states and countries. California recognizes same-sex marriages from anywhere in the world if they were entered into before Proposition 8 amended the state constitution in November 2008 to re-ban same-sex marriage, which had been legal for 4 1/2 months.
A high-powered lawsuit charging that Prop 8 violates the U.S. Constitution will see a U.S. District Court decision in San Francisco this summer. The case likely will end up at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Internationally, same-sex marriage is legal in Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Mexico City.
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