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Business Roundtable urges civil union veto

A letter to Gov. Lingle cites property rights and other issues of concern over HB 444

By B.J. Reyes

LAST UPDATED: 2:56 a.m. HST, Jul 7, 2010

A top business organization is urging Gov. Linda Lingle to veto House Bill 444, the civil unions bill.

In a letter dated June 4, the Hawaii Business Roundtable says its executive committee recommends the veto and supports the formation of a commission to study the issue and make recommendations for next legislative session.

"While the bill attempts to address inequities in rights and benefits for domestic partners, it creates many more new problems which need to be addressed," Gary K. Kai, executive director of the Roundtable, says in the letter.

"There are a number of questions that arise because of the manner in which the legislation was drafted such as 'voidance of the civil union,' and other questions that have implications in the areas of inheritance, employment benefits and property rights."

The Hawaii Business Roundtable is a public policy group of senior executives from top Hawaii companies.

Lingle is traveling in Asia and is not scheduled to return until the end of next week. She has until June 21 to notify the Legislature which bills she might veto, but she has until July 6 to make her decision.

Lingle has pledged to thoroughly study the issue before making a decision, but has stated previously that the language in the bill appears to be same-sex marriage by a different name, a concept she opposes.

House Bill 444 would grant the same rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities of spouses in a marriage to partners in a civil union. All couples would be allowed to enter into a civil union, provided they are 18 or older, not related and not married.

At least one House member is urging Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona to sign the bill in Lingle's absence. Aiona is a strong supporter of traditional marriage and is on the record as being opposed to HB 444.

But Rep. Tom Brower said this was Aiona's "chance to show he more than a seat warmer."

"As one of the 31 House members who supported civil unions, I encourage Aiona's support," Brower (D, Waikiki-Ala Moana), said in an e-mail. "It would send the message to Hawaii that its top government officials understand the difference between civil unions and traditional marriage, and that we have enough safeguards in our state Constitution to protect the sanctity of marriage."


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