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View From Washington


Thursday's outright rejection of the constitutionality of DOMA's third section was indeed a brand new day, transporting the mass of America back from the darkness of Tuesday when Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed a civil unions bill passed handily by her state legislature.

"Judge Topples U.S. Rejection of Gay Unions" practically leapt off the front page of the New York Times Friday morning, just three days after Lingle, perhaps living in some parallel universe, offered the most craven of explanations for 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," Lingle said at a Wednesday afternoon press conference.

Lingle, in what can only be described as a truly heartless and depraved act, had called in interested parties with whom she had conferred on the matter over the past weeks to hear her final decision on the bill. As the cameras rolled on live TV, gay couples who had hoped and fought for the most basic recognition of their love, found out that their inherent value might be voted on - a sort of adolescent popularity contest of one's humanity where you're either declared worthy or, perhaps, worthless.

One day there may be a special kind of remorse for this woman as she stares into the mirror. For even as the basic dignity of thousands of her fellow human beings rested in her hands, Lingle explained, "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."

It's really quite difficult to know where to begin in picking apart how morally and intellectually bankrupt her entire rationale is. The bill, HB 444, was in fact given a stamp of approval by a legislative body with 76 people in it, where 49 of them - or about 2/3 - voted for passage. So its approval never rested on the decision of just one person, but it was in fact solely the decision of one person -- and only one -- to reject it.


Furthermore, the legislative body that approved HB 444 had also been vested with the authority to prohibit same-sex marriage by the people of Hawaii when voters passed a 1998 constitutional amendment giving elected officials that power. State lawmakers did, in fact, exercise that authority. But twelve years later they also concluded that they must act to remedy the inequities faced by gay couples and, at the very least, provide them some protections through a separate but unequal institution.

So the notion that the body once empowered by the people to pass discriminatory laws does not hold the same power to pass laws that protect a minority is beyond unreasonable.

And then there's the more fundamental issue of whether our politicians - and in this case, one who holds the highest office in the state - are elected to make decisions. So many elected officials seem to have conveniently forgotten this whenever exercising the power of their office seems too weighty, but the founding fathers roundly rejected the option of forming a pure democracy governed by majority rule. They instead opted to form a Republic, in which certain people are chosen to represent a group of people and govern on their behalf.

Nonetheless, Lingle's logic has company. Of the four people running to succeed her as governor, three of them agreed that the rights of a minority ought to be subjected to majority rule. That includes one Democrat, Mufi Hannemann, who declared marriage between a man and a woman "sacrosanct" and said, "Now that the governor has decided the fate of House Bill 444, I firmly support steps to let the people of Hawaii have the final say on an issue that has generated passionate perspectives."

Neil Abercrombie, the other Democrat in the race, was the one dissenter. Asked how he would have handled HB 444, Abercrombie told Hawaii News Now, "Oh I would have signed it."

A spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee said the DNC would not take sides in the Democratic primary but also confirmed that DNC is likely to support the winner of that race, whoever it may be. A Research 2000 poll in June showed Abercrombie with a 42-22% lead over Hannemann and the winner of that race seems likely to defeat their Republican opponent.

The LGBT community is often told they should absolutely support Democrats, give money to Democrats and vote for Democrats even if they're not perfect because the alternative would be so much worse. In this case, I see little difference between Lingle and Hannemann. Fortunately for the DNC, the Hawaiian people may save them the headache of having to justify that rationale to the queer community on behalf of Hannemann.

I also approached the White House about the fact that the governor of President Obama's home state had denied basic protections to Hawaiian gays and lesbians. A spokesperson reconfirmed the president's support for civil unions but declined to comment further on the matter.

Meanwhile, nearly everyone expects the Obama administration to appeal this week's historic DOMA ruling and already some people are painting the administration as a victim of circumstance - having to defend a law that even the president himself wants to repeal.

But wouldn't it be nice to get just a little boost from the White House when someone like Gov. Linda Lingle stomps out protections for an aggrieved minority. Apparently, anything regarding relationship recognition is just too hot for this administration to touch.

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