“This is a decision that will live in history. The stance we take now will be remembered. Sitting passively on the sidelines and tossing up your hands doesn’t cut it. Neither does straddling the fence, trying to placate intolerant people—decent and well intentioned as they may be—who hide behind their clergyman, their upbringing or their own ignorance-steeped fears…”
We wrote that in March 2009. At the time, the state legislature was considering HB444, a bill that, anyone who’s paid even a modicum of attention knows, would legalize same-sex civil unions in Hawaii, granting gay couples some of the same rights as married straight couples. Now, more than a year later, both the state Senate and House have passed HB444. It survived protests, revisions and political backpedaling. It made national headlines and sparked a heated, protracted debate that featured the predictable mix of gay-rights groups and anti-gay crusaders. But to retrace HB444’s circuitous history isn’t the point. The point is that, after the House passed the bill with a 31-20 vote last week, it is now one signature away from becoming law.
That signature, of course, must come from the hand of Gov. Linda Lingle, who has remained strangely silent about her intentions, even in the face of mounting scrutiny and repeated media inquiries. As of this writing, Lingle hasn’t released a statement acknowledging the bill’s passage, let alone indicated which way she’s leaning. She has until July 6 to sign, veto or allow the bill to move forward without her signature.
We know what Lt. Gov., Duke Aiona thinks. “The State House’s last-minute political maneuvering is unfortunate for the people of Hawaii who have voiced their support for traditional marriage,” Aiona said in a statement released April 29, the same day as the House vote. “If the Legislature wanted to establish the equivalent of same-sex marriage, they should have put it on the ballot for the people to decide.”
“This bill should not be allowed to become law,” Aiona added, in case there was any doubt about his feelings.
Last year, before HB444 was derailed, there was speculation that, if it passed, Lingle might leave the state and allow Aiona to veto the bill. It’s a move that would play well with Aiona’s religious base, a base he’s counting on to help him in this year’s gubernatorial election. Lingle and Aiona both recently returned from a California trip, however, and with 250 bills headed for her desk, it would seem an odd time to jet off again. One way or the other, this looks like Lingle’s call.
If she does exercise veto power, the legislature won’t have enough votes for an override. And even if they did, House and Senate leaders have indicated they won’t push for another vote.
This is a big moment for our Governor. Over the past eight years, we’ve made no secret of the fact that we disapprove of her governing style and disagree with many of her policies and decisions. But now, as she prepares to leave office, she has a chance to do something significant, to strike a resounding blow for civil rights. This is, as we wrote last year, a decision that will live in history. Let’s hope Lingle, and Hawaii, come down on the right side.
If you feel passionate about this issue either way, it’s worth noting the Governor is soliciting feedback (not just on HB444, but all the bills she has to consider). Follow the link at www.hawaii.gov/gov