Civil Beat asked likely primary voters whether after Gov. Linda Lingle‘s veto of a civil unions in July, they wanted to go over the same ground again in January.
The answer was 45 percent opposed, 39 percent in favor, with 16 percent unsure, according to the automated telephone poll of 1,226 likely primary voters. It was conducted for Civil Beat by Aloha Vote, a Hawaii subsidiary of Merriman River Group (MRG), a Connecticut research organization, on Sept. 7-8. The margin of error is +/- 2.75 percent.
The poll also found that while the Democratic governor candidates have opposing views on HB444 — Neil Abercrombie says he would have signed it, Mufi Hannemann says he would have vetoed it — the issue of civil unions is not the biggest factor in the election for most voters.
Sixteen percent of those surveyed said it was the most important issue, trailing education at 27 percent and negative campaigning at 21 percent. Civil Unions was essentially tied for third with “other.”
Of Hannemann supporters, 20 percent said their No. 1 reason for supporting him was his stance on civil unions. For Abercrombie, 14 percent said the issue was their most important reason for backing him.
“There is some fatigue on this issue,” said Matt Fitch, executive director of Merriman River Group. “Even some people who support civil unions want the Legislature to move on.”
However the split by candidate is revealing. Fifty-five percent of Abercrombie supporters support the Legislature bringing the issue back up, with 31 percent opposed. The figures are reversed for Hannemann, with 59 percent of his supporters opposed to lawmakers returning to the issue and 30 percent in favor.
The question Civil Beat asked was: “Now that governor Linda Lingle has vetoed a bill that would have legalized same-sex civil unions, do you think that Hawaii’s state legislature should bring the issue of civil unions up for a vote again in the near future?
What the results don’t answer, Fitch said, was the reason. Is it because they’re opposed to civil unions or just sick of hearing about them?
“There will be some of both in the “No” category,” Fitch said. “To say yes, you pretty much have to really support it.”
Even if the Legislature doesn’t take up the issue of civil unions again, the topic won’t go away. The issue of civil unions in Hawaii has already moved to the courts. After Lingle’s veto, six gay and lesbian couples filed a lawsuit in the 1st Circuit Court of Honolulu, aiming to do what the plaintiffs argue the governor and the state Legislature failed to do: Treat all couples equally under the law. That case has a life of its own.
Hawaii could also be affected by a federal case out of California. Perry v. Schwarzenegger will decide whether California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage, was constitutional. A district court judge this year ruled that it was not. But it’s considered likely that the case will go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court on appeal.
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