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.
| July 8, 2010; 3:52 PM ET
Categories: Capehart | Tags: Jonathan Capehart
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