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Override Hawaii Gov. Lingle's veto of civil unions

In agreeing with Van Jones and his “We’re a little spoiled” critique of progressives who aren’t willing to take incremental gains, I acknowledged that “it’s difficult to tell those pushing for equality to wait until conditions are more favorable for success or to even accept a portion of what they’re asking for as a down payment.” The veto of the civil unions bill in Hawaii is Exhibit A in why gay men and lesbians are right to boil with frustration and anger.

I’m all for the courts stepping in to right an injustice, especially when it is reinforced by the people either at the ballot box or through their elected representatives. But what was happening in Hawaii was the optimal way for granting same-sex couples the same rights and responsibilities as married heterosexuals. The duly elected legislature overwhelmingly passed a civil unions law. The state Senate approved it 18 to 7 back in January. The Hawaii House of Representatives followed suit in April by a vote of 31 to 20. All that was needed was the governor’s signature.

Gov. Linda Lingle (R) put on a good show in weighing her decision whether or not to veto. She had meetings and phone calls with those in favor of and against same-sex marriage. After all, even though HB 444 was a civil union bill, the battle was over marriage equality. Lingle vetoed the legislation on Tuesday. “I have been open and consistent in my opposition to same gender marriage and find that HB 444 is essentially marriage by another name,” she said.

And then Lingle did the unthinkable. She advocated putting the rights of a minority up for a popular vote.

The subject of this legislation has touched the hearts and minds of our citizens as no other social issue of our day. It would be a mistake to allow a decision of this magnitude to be made by one individual or a small group of elected officials.

And while ours is a system of representative government it also is one that recognizes that, from time to time, there are issues that require the reflection, collective wisdom and consent of the people and reserves to them the right to directly decide those matters. This is one such issue.

Putting the rights of the minority up for a popular vote is an abdication of leadership. Making “[d]ecisions of this magnitude” is what the people who troop to voting booths elect their representatives to do. And we’ve seen what happens when marriage equality is on the ballot. Californians have a reputation for being a liberal live-and-let-live crew. But in 2008, they approved a state constitutional amendment that defined and recognized marriage as between one man and one woman in the Golden State.

Lingle said it was the “depth of emotion” from both sides revealed to her just how important the institution of marriage is. “It is as fundamental to those who support marriage between two people of the same gender as it is to those who support marriage only between one man and one woman,” she said. And yet she refuses to see that adding same-sex couples to the wheezing institution of marriage -- with all the security, societal support and responsibility that goes with it -- can only strengthen it.

The Hawaiian legislature must override Lingle’s veto. To do otherwise is to break faith with same-sex couples in the Aloha State -- and to be on the wrong side of history with Lingle.

By Jonathan Capehart  | July 8, 2010; 3:52 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Absolutely right, Jonathan. It is sickening that the ONLY group in America whose rights regularly get put up for a vote is the GLBT community. Even when state legislators have the courage to pass laws protecting us, politicians like Gov. Lingle then assert their prerogative to substitute their own judgment (aka bias) for the popular will.

At least we can take consolation, however meager, that history will judge her and her fellow Republicans quite severely. In the meantime, let us hope her successor, almost certainly a Democrat, will do the right thing and sign the bill next year.

Posted by: DCSteve1 | July 8, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

" “We’re a little spoiled” critique of progressives who aren’t willing to take incremental gains, I acknowledged that “it’s difficult to tell those pushing for equality to wait until conditions are more favorable for success or to even accept a portion of what they’re asking for as a down payment.” "

a Black man saying "take incremental gains"
to gays.. Too funny, he got his

Posted by: newagent99 | July 8, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

What rights do heterosexuals have that homosexuals do not have?

Posted by: groovercg | July 8, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Put a plug in it Capehart. I live in Washington State. The progressive community went nuts when the people put a question on the ballot as to whether the legislative act giving gays basically the same rights as married couples should go down the drain. There was even a U.S. Supreme Court case regarding possible harassment, by progressives, against those signing the petition to put the matter on the ballot. Guess what? We as a State, including myself and my wife voted to retain the rights. Now the progressive's have a great argument to put forth to get gay marriage on the ballot. The only way that you're going to get federal Courts to uphold gay marriage is to show that attitudes have changed in the States. It's hard for me to see that people in Hawaii would vote against civil unions. I fear that "impatient progressives" are getting the same reputation as right wing loonies.

Posted by: Fergie303 | July 8, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Capehart has Gov. Lingle's puzzling quote here. I assume that she believes the legislation is worth vetoing even while acknowledging how essentially important it is to those who want it. Seems to me like she's trying to validate people's feelings while voting her conscience. Rather political.

Jonathan espouses the common view that gay marriage equates to human rights/civil rights. Lingle can't see that adding gays to the "institution of marriage -- with all the security, societal support and responsibility that goes with it -- can only strengthen it."

Sir, with respect, what will happen when marriage becomes whatever you want it to be, it becomes meaningless. The result of redefining marriage will not be to strengthen it; it will be to marginalize it.

Posted by: slatt321 | July 8, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

@slat321 and others: Marginalize?Sigh..... People, most of your marriages are already jokes.

Posted by: dirktazer | July 8, 2010 10:40 PM | Report abuse

Marginalize? Most your marriages are jokes already.

Posted by: dirktazer | July 8, 2010 10:42 PM | Report abuse

It will be interesting to see if an Overide gets organized and succeeds. I'm a Hawaiian and I think the Overide may have difficulty getting the needed votes.

Posted by: npsilver | July 8, 2010 11:44 PM | Report abuse

Hawaii invented the bigot ballot back in 1998. The last state to be ratified as an American state was the first state to let a tyrannical majority decide to deny equal marriage rights to American citizens. Hawaii was also the first state where their Supreme Court ruled that there was no compelling constitutional reason to deny equal marriage rights to anyone based on who they love. Then their state legislature passed the first equal marriage rights bill. Then the Mormons and Catholics swooped in from the mainland and invented the bigot ballot, which passed, but the door was left opened for civil marriages. That would have been the law of the land there in paradise until Governor Lingle decided that Americans who she does not look like, believe like or love like must ask permission to have equal rights in Hawaii from people who don't agree with them, approve of them, accept them, respect them, understand or tolerate them. So the last state to become a state continues to deny equal rights to American taxpayers, as they have been doing for about 12 years.

Posted by: planetspinz | July 9, 2010 1:26 AM | Report abuse

When Hawaii gives in and becomes another San Fransisco on steroids, Hawaii will become another, big, homosexual enclave. The morbidly disturbed, sexually disoriented, oddities from every corner of the world will stream to Hawaii and simply take it over by force of numbers.

That is what a realist like Lingle realizes. It will ruin the island for normal people and Hawaii will be avoided by them.

That's the scenario in a nutshell. This is the fork in the road. Choose wisely, Hawaii.

Posted by: battleground51 | July 9, 2010 6:34 AM | Report abuse

It's sad to see the head of one of the most ethnically diverse states abandon any pretext of courageous leadership.

Posted by: jack824 | July 9, 2010 8:16 AM | Report abuse

Ah, yes, leave it to the "collective wisdom" of the mob.

My prediction: The 5 percent or so of registered eligible voters who would be directly affected by it lose out to the 7 percent or so who will be whipped into a frenzy by the cry of, "End of Civilization as We Know It!" from bigots on the "religious" right while the 88 percent of us who have no direct stake in the outcome pop another cool one and watch ESPN News.

Posted by: Ralphinjersey | July 9, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

why do we care whether or not homosexuals get married? It has absolutely NOTHING to do with me, nor does it de-legitimize my own marriage to my wife.

are they afraid of the bachelor parties or something?

Posted by: Please_Fix_VAs_Roads | July 9, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Capehart, well said. Among other objectors, Lingle was obviously pressured by the small but very vocal contingent of Mormon's who, as in California, are seekign to insinuate themselves in the governance of western states and have long been a presence in Hawaii. LDS can now quite correctly say Mormons 2, Gays 0.

Posted by: socaloralpleazer | July 9, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

How is putting up for a popular vote any more unthinkable than the veto?

By vetoing the legislation, it sounds like Lingle doesn't feel that marriage or civil unions for gays IS a civil right. Instead, she wants to see if the population at large wants to make it a legal one.

It's heartbreaking for those who thought they were so close to civil marriage, but you're projecting your own values onto Lingle - values she obviously doesn't share. Her veto IS leadership- just not the kind you wanted.

Posted by: msully25 | July 9, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

The people are generally an obstacle to the progressive movement. Most everything of value tends to come from the courts – Brown, Roe, Carbon Regulation, and soon Gay Marriage.

The masses are only of use in so far as they enable us, through the election process, to get the right judges in place.

Posted by: upton1 | July 9, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

As a Hawaiian, let me try to defuse some of Capehart's legitimate anger by reminding everyone that Lingle is at the end of her final term and we will unquestionably have a Democratic governor in 2011. (Although we're working to make sure it's not Mufi Hannemann, current mayor who's up to his ears in mismanagement issues, and a Mormon.)

Unfortunately, it's not likely the Legislature will reconvene this year to overturn this or any other of Lingle's vetoes. As a previous commenter wrote, there likely aren't the override votes.

But his bill will certainly be back next year, will pass again, and will be signed by a Democratic governor. This is merely a "momentary" setback.

For Lingle to say that "civil unions are only marriages by another name" simply highlights the linguistic problem inherent in the word "marriage". This is a word that should be eliminated from legislative discourse due to its irreparable tie to religion. And Lingle's statement itself is merely "religious bigotry by another name".

Posted by: laboo | July 9, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

The gay marriage movement became stalled everywhere because national opinion was, and still is, against it. The Obama Administration leaned on their Department of Defense lackeys; Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen to recite the drill before Congress in an attempt to create implied legitimacy were it can be imposed the easiest; in the armed forces. That has not happened yet either because of strong resistance from within the armed forces to leave “Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell” alone. However, the impression of legitimacy was already made. Now, other forces in the form of a cadre of activist judges are coming into play. The final trump may come in the form of a confirmation of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. Kagan’s confirmation is possible and likely (at least for now), but it has not happened yet. The bottom line is that being gay is not a civil right. If some same sex couples want to "play house," then society will tolerate it, but that does not make it a marriage. One man and one woman are needed to make a marriage. That is where it ends; as an absolute. If the definition of marriage is misinterpreted into anything else, then the definition of marriage will never end.

Posted by: OIFVet06 | July 9, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

According to the writer, it is "unthinkable" that the issue should be put to a popular vote.

Of course, we must let our betters decide.

Progressive thinking at its finest.

Posted by: jcp370 | July 9, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

A week or so before Lingle's decision the speaker of the state house said that the legislature would NOT (for the first time in many years) be called into special session to override Lingle's veto. This was obviously orchestrated ahead of time. Tyranny by the majority, plain and simple. The founding fathers foresaw this possibility. This is exactly what the courts are for. Let's see if the Hawaii State Supreme Court has the balls.

Posted by: hirichardhi | July 10, 2010 4:21 AM | Report abuse

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