LGBT rights supporters in Hawaii have been waiting on pins and needles since April 29, 2010, when the Hawaii State House of Representatives passed House Bill 444, the civil unions bill, and sent it to Gov. Linda Lingle for her signature. The governor has until July 6, 2010, to either sign it into law, allow it to become law without her signature, or veto it.
H.B. 444 would allow both same-sex and different-sex couples to enter into a civil union, which will provide them with the same responsibilities and legal protections under state law as those provided to married couples. While civil unions will not confer those social and cultural benefits (or federal legal protections) that come with marriage, civil unions will go a long way towards ensuring that same-sex couples are able to adequately take care of each other and their families.
H.B. 444’s long and excruciating two year journey through the Hawaii State Legislature will surely go down in history as one of the most hard-fought battles for LGBT rights in Hawaii. In addition to endless community organizing, lobbying, and public education, we have endured historically long public hearings, wavering legislators and vote after vote after vote. Even now, while we wait for Gov. Lingle’s decision, we are lobbying the legislature to come back to the capitol to override her veto if necessary.
While speculating about the governor’s situation is similar to attempting to read tea leaves, two events stand out that seem to weigh in favor of her letting civil unions become law without her signature. The first event is a live broadcast from 2002 during which the governor stated, “On the issue of domestic partnerships, I have stated that if the Legislature (should) pass legislation granting certain rights I would not veto that legislation.” While this statement seems to indicate that she has no objection to civil unions, it is the next event that may be more telling.
It has been reported that the governor, in deciding how to act on H.B. 444, has been reading about the legacy of former Hawaii Gov. John Burns, who allowed a bill legalizing abortion to become law without his signature despite his personal opposition. In his statement to the legislature, Burns noted that his decision was “the decision of the Governor of Hawaii, not the private and personal whim of John A. Burns. It reflects my best judgment as Governor, made after consultation with the best minds in the State, in regard to what is in the best interest of all the people of Hawaii.” We hope that Gov. Lingle sees the wisdom and logic in Gov. Burns’ position and follows his example. Allowing civil unions to become law would bring stability to Hawaii’s families and resolve the tension that has divided our state for over 20 years — and that’s a legacy for which a governor can be proud.
Please contact Hawaii’s Governor and ask her to allow the civil unions bill to become law:
Hawaii State Capitol
Honolulu, HI 96813
Fax: (808) 586-0006
Honolulu Office: (808) 586-0034
Hilo Office: (808) 974-6262
Kauai Office: (808) 274-3100
Kona Office: (808) 327-4953
Maui Office:(808) 243-5796