Unlike his Republican opponent in the general election or the Democrat he defeated in the primary, Neil Abercrombie has repeatedly said he would sign a Hawaii civil unions bill should it comes across his desk as governor.

And yet, Abercrombie supported the 1998 ballot question that allowed the state Legislature to amend the Constitution and restrict marriage to between a man and a woman.

Abercrombie reaffirmed that vote as recently as this month, as reported in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “because he thought lawmakers should have that responsibility. He said he does not think the state should reopen the debate on same-sex marriage, an issue that may ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The story added: “The former congressman said a debate on same-sex marriage would be needlessly divisive and counterproductive. He said his views are that people should be entitled “to make any arrangement they want with their lives.”

Abercrombie’s campaign confirmed the candidate’s position for Civil Beat.

The former congressman’s support for the 1998 amendment seems out of character given his long record on civil rights.

Indeed, it’s part of his platform: “The people of Hawaii have too much history with discrimination not to understand what is happening here. Protecting people’s civil rights cannot be compromised and I am committed to this most essential of constitutional imperatives,” he states on his campaign website.

Abercrombie has the strong support of the GLBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii.

Many liberals — President Barack Obama included — continue to make a distinction between civil unions and gay marriage. Many conservatives — including Linda Lingle and Duke Aiona — who oppose civil unions say it’s because they are marriage by another name.

But Abercrombie’s decision to stand by the 1998 vote is in stark contrast not only to his stance on civil unions but his record in Congress on social issues and sexual orientation.

According to ProjectVoteSmart:

• In 1993 Abercrombie voted against the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” amendment prohibiting gay individuals from serving openly in the U.S. military.

• In 1996, he voted against the federal Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.

• In 1995, he voted no on an amendment to repeal the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act of 1992, “which allows unmarried individuals, regardless of gender, to register as domestic partners, allowing them to be eligible for D.C. government health care.”

• In 2006, Abercrombie voted against “a joint resolution proposing a constitutional amendment providing that marriage in the U.S. consists only of the union of a man and a woman, and federal and state constitutions can not be construed to require marriage or legal incidents of marriage be conferred in other unions.” (The resolution failed.)

• And in 2007, he voted to pass a bill that amends the federal Civil Rights Act to “prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation.” The measure, introduced by the openly gay Rep. Barney Frank, passed.

“No matter what your race or ethnicity, native or immigrant background, religion or culture, sexual orientation, disability, age or gender; no matter how much money you have; no matter what kind of job you have; everyone in Hawaii counts,” Abercrombie states on his website. “It is critical that we protect the civil and human rights of all our people.”

Just not the marriage rights — a matter steadily moving through the federal courts.

Learn more about Abercrombie’s Shades of Red, on topics such as the military, the estate tax and also about how he stood alone on a controversial vote on aid for the Palestinian government.

Learn about Aiona’s Shades of Blue, on topics such as the Akaka Bill, the homeless, clean energy and sustainability and healthy lifestyles.

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