Reaction: Civil Union Veto



Hawaii governor Linda Lingle has vetoed legislation that would have legalized civil unions in her state, while gay rights groups seem to be readying a lawsuit over her decision.

"After months of listening to Hawaii’s citizens express to me in writing and in person their deeply held beliefs in supporting or opposing House Bill 444, I've decided to veto" the bill, Lingle said Tuesday at a press conference in Honolulu.

The Republican governor clearly wasn't swayed by 7,500 letters, postcards, and petition signatures in favor of the legislation that were delivered to her by gay rights groups. Lingle was also presented with the results of a 2009 poll showing public support for civil unions.

The state house passed the legislation in April, after the senate approved it in January. Lingle, an opponent of marriage equality, has stated she believes civil unions will lead to same-sex marriage.

Evan Wolfson, the executive director of the group Freedom to Marry, was one of the attorneys in the historic case in which Hawaii's supreme court ruled, in 1993, that denying gay couples the right to marry was unconstitutional (after years of back-and-forth in the courts, the state would eventually amend its constitution to allow legislators to ban same-sex marriage). In a statement Wolfson said, “In the 1990s, Hawaii began the ongoing international movement toward ending gay couples' exclusion from marriage and was the first U.S. state to create a legal status to provide some state-level recognition and protections for same-sex couples.

“In the historic Baehr case, the Hawaii supreme court acknowledged a constitutional mandate to treat same-sex couples equally. Governor Lingle's decision to veto the civil union bill is deeply disappointing and unnecessarily delays Hawaii's journey toward fairness and equality. Governor 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. Freedom to Marry urges the Hawaii state legislature to overrule Governor Lingle's veto and take an important step toward fairness and equal protection for same-sex couples in Hawaii.” (Continued on following page)

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