Gay rights groups say they are saddened by
Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle's Tuesday veto against civil unions for
“Today is a sad day for the thousands
of Hawaii families who remain second class citizens,” Alan Spector,
legislative affairs co-chair for Equality Hawaii, said. The group
had lobbied hard for Lingle to approve the bill that would have
recognized gay and lesbian couples with civil unions.
The Republican governor rejected the
measure approved by lawmakers in April after considering the issue
over the entire 45 days allowed by law. She said she vetoed the bill
because it was too similar to marriage.
The bill is “essentially same sex
marriage by another name,” she said.
Lingle has said she believes marriage
is a heterosexual union. But eight years ago, she promised she would
sign a bill that grants gay couples similar rights.
“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,” Lingle answered PBS moderator Linda Taira during a
Nationwide gay rights groups have also
expressed their disappointment with Lingle's decision.
“Americans nationwide share in the
disappointment and outrage of thousands of Hawaii's families who will
not receive equal treatment under law,” Joe Solmonese, president of
the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest gay advocate,
Other groups had harsher words for the
governor, including the Rev. Carolyn M. Golojuch, who heads the Oahu
chapter of PFLAG, a support group for parents and friends of people
who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
Golojuch said Lingle's decision had
“denied” gay couples “social justice.”
“Her denial is a violation of the
integrity of her office and a violation of her oath of office,” she
said. “Governor Lingle's denial of equal rights, benefits and
protections for one segment of our citizens is a denial for all of
our citizens of Hawaii.”
The latest round in Hawaii's
long-running gay marriage debate 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 measure.
The last-minute moves were blasted by
Lingle in her veto announcement. She called reviving the civil
unions bill on the final day of the legislative session “wrong”
Lingle's decision is expected to be the
final say on the debate for now because lawmakers failed to approve
the measure with a veto-proof majority.
Still, some gay rights advocates,
including Freedom to Marry, a group that lobbies for marriage
equality throughout the nation, are calling on the Legislature to
override the governor's veto.
House leaders announced Friday they
would not attempt to override any of the governor's vetoes.
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. The amendment leaves
the door open for other forms of legal recognition for gay and