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Lee Cataluna

Politicians avoid controversy by handing choices to voters

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Linda Lingle’s tenure as governor will be remembered for two big things that didn’t happen: Superferry and civil unions. Specifically, Lingle will be remembered for her all-out effort on behalf of Superferry investors and her chilly refusal to sign the bill establishing civil unions.

"I am vetoing this bill because I have become convinced that this issue is of such significant societal importance that it deserves to be decided directly by all the people of Hawaii," Lingle said in Tuesday’s news conference announcing her veto of HB 444. "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."

This from a leader who has spoken with pride on her ability to make unpopular decisions because they were the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, legislators refused to reconvene in a veto override session. In 2007 they came scurrying back into special session at Lingle’s request to change the law in favor of Superferry to allow the controversial ship to start up business between islands.

Seems there’s controversy politicians can handle and controversy that makes them want to speak in vague terms and talk about letting the people decide.

Letting the people decide isn’t always the best way to handle social issues, especially when civil rights are concerned and people get tangled up in their interpretations of religion. It wasn’t so long ago that interracial marriage was illegal in some states, considered a sin and an abomination by vocal opponents. They argued all the way to the Supreme Court that God had put people of different races on different continents so that they wouldn’t mix. Thank God they did mix or else we wouldn’t have the multiracial, ethnically diverse, open-minded and compassionate Hawaii that we have today.

In talking about her decision, Lingle referred to a woman who worried that her children would be taught in school that a gay marriage is the same as the marriage between Mommy and Daddy.

There are other many things to worry about in terms of what kids are learning. Worry about them learning that inequality is acceptable because some people are just morally superior to others. Worry about them learning that it’s OK to treat little Billy badly because he has two mommies or that something is wrong with little Sally because she won’t wear dresses and hair ribbons. Worry about them learning about marriage in school when they should be working on topics like math and reading that will be covered on the SAT.

The Superferry debate was marked by Lingle’s "I know what’s best for Hawaii" attitude. And we know how that story ended. This year’s attempt to establish civil unions ends with Lingle saying she shouldn’t be the one to decide what’s best for Hawaii. Thankfully, the story isn’t over, though this chapter ended poorly.

Lee Cataluna can be reached at lcataluna@


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