Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle has vetoed
a bill that would have recognized gay and lesbian couples with civil
unions, the AP reported.
Lingle waited until the last possible
day to announce her decision.
The Republican governor said she
rejected the bill because it was too similar to marriage.
“I find that House Bill 444 is
essentially same sex marriage by another name,” Lingle said.
The debate over civil unions began last
year when the bill easily cleared the House but stalled in the state
Senate. The bill was amended to include heterosexual couples, but
the session ended without a debate. When lawmakers reconvened in
January, senators approved the amended version of the measure but
House leaders left the bill unattended until the final day of the
legislative session in April. Late on that day, House Majority
Leader Blake Oshiro made a motion to bring back the measure. Oshiro,
an openly gay Democrat, previously denied he would revive the
Lingle's decision is expected to be the
final say on the long debate for now because lawmakers failed to
approve the measure with a veto-proof majority. Still, some gay
rights advocates are calling on the Legislature to override the
“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,” Evan
Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, a group that lobbies
for marriage equality throughout the nation, said.
“Freedom to Marry urges the Hawaii
state Legislature to overrule Governor Lingle's veto and take an
important step towards fairness and equal protection for same-sex
couples in Hawaii,” he added.
Hawaii was the first state to grapple
with gay marriage when the state Supreme Court struck down a law that
limited marriage to heterosexual couples in 1993. But in approving a
constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a heterosexual
union, voters overturned the decision in 1998.
In rejecting the civil unions bill,
Lingle also blasted Democrats for reviving the legislation on the
last day of the session.
“The legislative maneuvering that
brought House Bill 444 to an 11th-hour vote on the final
day of the session … after the legislators led the public to
believe that the bill was dead, was wrong and unfair,” she said.
House leaders announced Friday they
would not attempt to override any of the governor's vetoes.