Hawaii governor vetoes same-sex civil unions
HONOLULU — Hawaii’s governor on Tuesday vetoed legislation that would have permitted same-sex civil unions, ending weeks of speculation on how she would weigh in on the contentious, emotional debate.
Republican Gov. Linda Lingle’s action came on the final day she had to either sign or veto the bill, which the Hawaii Legislature passed in late April.
“I have been open and consistent in my opposition to same-sex marriage, and find that House Bill 444 is essentially same-sex marriage by another name,” Lingle said.
Had Lingle not vetoed it, the measure would have granted gay and lesbian couples the same rights and benefits that the state provides to married couples. It also would have made Hawaii one of six states that essentially grant the rights of marriage to samesex couples without authorizing marriage itself. Five other states and the District of Columbia permit same-sex marriage.
Dozens of supporters had gathered for a daylong vigil. Some waved flags and held signs along a busy street.
“I want to be able to get married,” said Elizabeth Kline, a 22-year-old University of Hawaii student who quickly corrected herself to say she wants a civil union. “It’s not marriage, but it’s a step toward it.”
Meanwhile, a group of about 20 opponents of civil unions raised their hands, closed their eyes and said blessings in front of the office doors of key lawmakers.
“All we’re doing is praying. We’re not waving signs or playing music,” like gay rights groups in the rotunda, said Dennis Arakaki, executive director for the Hawaii Family Forum.
About 60 percent of the more than 34,000 letters, phone calls, e-mails and other communications from the public to Lingle asked her to veto the bill, the governor’s aides said.