Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle told a radio audience that civil unions aren’t a civil right because first cousins in Hawaii can’t marry, just as a brother and sister cannot.

The comments were made on Rick Hamada’s radio program on KHVH 830 AM Thursday morning.

During the program, Lingle said:

“For those people who want to makes this into a civil rights issue, and of course those in favor of the bill, they see it as a civil rights issue. And I understand them drawing that conclusion. But people on the other side would point out, well, we don’t allow other people to marry even — it’s not a civil right for them. First cousins couldn’t marry, or a brother and a sister and that sort of thing. So there are restrictions, not to put it in the exact same category. But the bottom line is, it really can’t be a civil right if we are restricting it in other cases, and it’s been found to be legal in those other cases, that the restrictions (are constitutional).”

Later in the segment a caller who identified himself as Joe from Maryland told the governor that first cousins can get married in Hawaii. Lingle’s response:

“Whether or not a first cousin can marry in Hawaii, I’ll have to go back and check. I don’t know that that’s untrue, but let me go back and check on that.”

Here’s what the Hawaii Department of Health has to say about the issue:

“Cousins may marry. However, the blood relationship between the prospective bride and groom cannot be closer than first cousins.”

Lingle spokesman Russell Pang couldn’t immediately be reached for comment this morning to respond to Civil Beat’s questions about the governor’s comments. (We will continue to seek further explanation of the civil rights analogy she used.)

Transcripts and audio recordings of the Hamada show featuring Lingle have been posted on the websites of several gay-advocacy and liberal groups.

“The Really Embarrassing Part of Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle Comparing Gay Marriage to Incest,” said Queerty.com in its headline.

“Gov. Lingle Compares Same-Sex Marriage To Incest, Doesn’t Realize Cousins Can Marry In Hawaii,” ran the headline on ThinkProgress.org

In its posting, GoodAsYou.org states, “Lingle makes things worse for gays, state, legacy.”

In her veto message Tuesday, Lingle said the civil unions issue should be decided not by the governor or the Legislature. “A vote by all the people of Hawaii is the best and fairest way to address an issue that elicits such deeply felt emotion by those both for and against,” she said.

Share your thoughts about the governor’s statements in our civil unions discussion.

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