A civil rights group is exploring the possibility of an economic boycott against Hawaii Business Roundtable members who supported a letter from the organization’s executive committee urging a governor’s veto of House Bill 444, the civil unions measure.
"There is no organized plan for a boycott right now," said Donald Bentz, a spokesman for Equality Hawaii. "That’s something that has to be really thought out and determined if that’s the best course of action.
The executive committee members of the Hawaii Business Roundtable as of February:
» David Carey, president and CEO, Outrigger Enterprises
"There are businesses that are supportive (of HB 444) that are part of the round table," he added. "We’re basically reaching out to them to ask them to take a stand and go from there."
The round table is a public policy group of senior executives from about 50 top companies that are either based in Hawaii or do significant business in the state.
Gary K. Kai, executive director of the round table, did not return a telephone message seeking comment yesterday.
In a letter dated June 4 and signed by Kai, the round table’s 10-member executive committee urged Lingle to veto HB 444 in part because of "the manner in which the legislation was drafted."
The letter does not take a position on civil unions, but takes issue with the language in the bill, including its effective date of Jan. 1, 2010, and the potential for more questions to arise as the legislation is implemented. It suggests the formation of a commission to study the matter and make recommendations for next session.
Alan Spector, legislative affairs co-chairman for Equality Hawaii, said the group has polled several members of the round table and learned some organizations were unaware of the letter to Lingle, adding they were uncertain whether their company was consulted.
Bentz noted that Bank of Hawaii and Hawaiian Airlines have traditionally scored very high on the nondiscrimination "scorecard" kept by the Human Rights Campaign, while DFS U.S. Group Vice President Sharon Weiner was among the supporters listed on ads in support of HB 444 bought by the group Citizens for Equal Rights. All three businesses are round-table members.
"Some of the companies that are round-table members have very progressive polices in place," Bentz said. "They are supportive, and that’s why we’re trying to contact them before any type of blanket boycott."
Lingle is traveling in Asia and is scheduled to return this week. She has until Monday to notify the Legislature which bills she might veto, but she has until July 6 to make her decision. She previously has said 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.