One word was missing from Gov. Linda Lingle’s public statement explaining why she vetoed the civil unions bill. It was also absent in the formal statement of objections she sent back to the Legislature.

That word: Constitution.

The very thing she has sworn to “support and defend” both times she took office as governor.

Gov. Lingle said her decision wasn’t based on her “personal opinion” (she’s opposed to same-sex marriage and thinks HB 444 “is essentially marriage by another name,”), her religious beliefs or politics. Instead, she says she made the decision because she’s “convinced that this issue is of such significant societal importance that it deserves to be decided directly by all the people of Hawaii.”

That sounds good. But the people of Hawaii in 1998 overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment giving the Legislature the authority to define marriage. The amendment said: “The legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples.”

Which it did in the 1990s, and which it did again this year, in crafting a civil unions bill.

Which brings me back to the Hawaii and federal constitutions the governor swore to support and defend.

A simple question for the governor: How is it constitutional to deprive one type of couple from the protections afforded other couples? No matter what the public says in the vote she says she desires, it won’t answer the question of the constitutionality of the status quo. It’ll only confirm that the majority can deprive a minority of their civil rights — when a leader takes the easy way out and abandons her commitment to the constitution.

About the Author