The word constitution never appears in Hawaii governor's explanations of why she rejected civil unions bill. Yet that's the key word in the whole debate over civil unions and whether some people can be deprived of a right enjoyed by others.
Had Gov. Linda Lingle signed House Bill 444 into law, Hawaii would have become the sixth state to recognize civil unions; five others and the District of Columbia have same-sex marriage. Instead, the civil unions bill was vetoed Tuesday. National media and pundits react to the news.
After years of debate on gay rights and months of discussion on the merits of one proposal, Gov. Linda Lingle on Tuesday vetoed House Bill 444, the civil unions bill. Reaction to her decision — positive and negative — poured in from around the state.
Lambda Legal said it will soon file a lawsuit seeking equal protection for same-sex couples under state law. The group and the American Civil Liberties Union had threatened a lawsuit last year and in February 2010 when the Hawaii Legislature moved slowly on House Bill 444.
"Shame," yelled one supporter of the bill. "Thank God," said opponents. The scene outside Gov. Lingle's office door when she announced her veto of the civil unions bill was an emotional ending to a long and dramatic day.
Supporters and opponents of House Bill 444 are gathered at the state Capitol today to await Gov. Linda Lingle's decision on whether to legalize civil unions in Hawaii. See the scene in Civil Beat photos.
The Hawaii Supreme Court judge whose 1993 opinion marked the beginning of the state's debate on gay rights will be there when the fate of the civil unions bill is decided today. Justice Steven H. Levinson was invited by the staff of Gov. Linda Lingle to attend her announcement, he told Civil Beat.
Gov. Lingle says House Bill 444 is "essentially marriage by another name." The process by which is was approved was flawed, she says, and the issue is of "such societal importance that it deserves to be decided by all the people of Hawaii."
Today, depending on what Gov. Lingle decides to do with HB 444, Hawaii will either join 10 other states and the District of Columbia in legally recognizing same-sex marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships, or remain on the side of 36 states that do not.