In electing Neil Abercrombie governor,
and rejecting many anti-gay statewide candidates, Hawaii voters have
paved the way for passage of a gay-inclusive civil unions bill.
The GOP wave that swamped much of the
country on election day appears to have left Hawaii, where Democrats
will continue to control the Legislature, unscathed.
Gay rights were an important issue in
the race to become the state's next governor.
Republican gubernatorial candidate
James “Duke” Aiona, who currently serves as the state's
lieutenant governor, had staked much of his political future on
opposing a gay-inclusive civil unions bill and promising to back an
amendment banning gay marriage in the Hawaii Constitution.
Lawmakers last session narrowly
approved a bill that recognizes gay and lesbian couples with civil
unions, but Republican Governor Linda Lingle vetoed the measure.
In announcing her decision, Lingle said
that she believes civil unions are “essentially same sex marriage
by another name.”
During the campaign, Aiona said he
agreed with Lingle's opinion and promised to back an amendment that
would ban government recognition of all gay unions, closing the
option for civil unions left open by a 1998 constitutional amendment
granting lawmakers the power to define marriage as a heterosexual
union. The measure overruled a 1993 Hawaii Supreme Court ruling that
favored gay marriage advocates.
While Abercrombie, a former
congressman, supported the 1998 measure, he also supports government
recognition of gay unions.
“It was a bill about civil rights and
responsibilities under the constitution, and did not constitute –
in my judgment – anything approaching a revision or recalculation
or redefinition of marriage,” Abercrombie said, referring to the
civil unions bill.
Openly gay House Majority Leader Blake
Oshiro has promised to reintroduce his civil unions legislation in
the next session.
“In many ways, this election was a
referendum on the bill,” Alan Spector, co-chair of Equality Hawaii,
told the AP. “This election has shown that equality wins
elections. There's no reason for us to believe that we can't pass
the bill again.”