Civil unions are "essentially marriage by another name," wrote Gov. Linda Lingle in her veto of House Bill 444. The governor is right and was wise to recognize what might be called a "Trojan horse" attack against marriage in Hawaii. Hawaii Family Forum applauds the governor for her strong stand for marriage and her overarching concern for the people of Hawaii and our right to decide this issue.
The language of the bill itself tells us that the civil unions it would have created are truly marriage by another name in granting "the same rights, benefits and responsibilities" of marriage to civil unions. This would inevitably leave it to the courts, as it did in Connecticut after the passage of a similar bill, to mandate same-sex marriage in Hawaii. Many leading advocates of HB 444 have been very clear and honest about their ultimate goal, which is same-sex marriage.
The future of marriage is of great importance to our community. It goes to the very foundations of our culture. It is a decision, therefore, that should be made by the people of Hawaii and not by politicians or judges. Not especially, given the deeply flawed legislative process that led to the passage of the bill. The Senate passed the bill in the last day of the prior session, suspending its rules. The House passed the bill on the last day of this year’s session, suspending its rules. The general public had no notice in both cases. The governor acknowledged these flaws and acted to redress them by her veto.
The governor and the legislators who stood for Hawaii’s families and opposed HB 444 deserve our praise. We now look to the Legislature to follow through with the governor’s recommendation to craft a simple and clear marriage amendment that will put the decision in the hands of the people of Hawaii. Let the people’s voice be heard.
In 31 out of 31 states in which the people have had a chance to decide, they have chosen to protect marriage every time, including in such states as California, Wisconsin and Oregon. Marriage is as important to Hawaii as it is to those 31 other states.
Hawaii already has enacted legislation that recognizes unions between same-sex couples and family members. This is the reciprocal beneficiaries law, which provides many of the benefits of marriage to same-sex and other couples. Should it be insufficient, it is our opinion that the law should be made more robust and modified accordingly. This is a way to continue to grant rights to same-sex couples without adversely affecting the First Amendment rights of free speech/religious freedom and parental rights of others.
We extend our respect to those to support the bill for their deeply held convictions. While we disagree on this fundamental issue of marriage, we can agree that our responsibility is to regard everyone with aloha.
As those of us on both sides of HB 444 sat in the governor’s chambers on the day of her veto announcement, we saw the state seal of Hawaii loom before us above her lectern. On the seal are the words, "Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka Aina I Ka Pono." Even while disputing HB 444, we can agree that our higher calling is to perpetuate the life of the land in the righteousness that is aloha.