The president and CEO of HEI is the first of the 10-member executive committee to publicly dissent from a June 4 letter to Gov. Linda Lingle from the committee asking for a veto of the civil unions bill. Lingle has until July 6 to act on the measure and said earlier this week that HB 444 is on a list of potential vetoes.
“I have given much thought to what I have heard in our communities, especially the implication that the calling for a veto equated to a policy stance against civil unions,” HEI President and CEO Constance Lau wrote in a June 24 letter to Donald Bentz, treasurer of civil-rights advocate Equality Hawaii. “As Hawaiian Electric Company president Dick Rosenblum earlier made clear, we have not taken, nor did we intend to take, any social policy position against civil unions. And while our HEI companies will continue our efforts to have HB 444 implemented in a way that will minimize the administrative challenges for businesses, I have come to the conclusion that such challenges can be addressed in ways other than through a veto.”
Lau continued: “Our HEI companies remain firmly committed to the principle that all people must be treated with fairness, respect and aloha.”
Time Warner, owner of Oceanic Cable, earlier put out a statement distancing itself from the roundtable position. However, it was not from the president of Oceanic, Nate Smith, who sits on the executive committee with Lau. Smith has not returned calls.
Lau’s letter was in response to a letter from Bentz about the issue. Equality Hawaii has been contacting members of the roundtable, asking them to clarify their position.
Bentz said today that he was “delighted that HEI has made it known that it values all of its customers and considers diversity an important factor for good business.”
Lau’s letter explained that the roundtable hadn’t taken a position on civil unions, just on the challenges implementing the current bill. However she backed off the stance that the challenges merited a veto.
“As you may know, the Hawaii Business Roundtable recently clarified its stance on HB 444, pointing out that it did not intend to take a position on the issue of civil unions, only on the administrative challenges for businesses as to how this measure would be implemented,” Lau wrote. “As a member of the Roundtable’s Executive Committee, it was those implementation challenges that were on my mind as we considered HB 444.”