Hawaii Governor Vetoes Civil Unions

Hawaii’s Governor Linda Lingle, has denied civil unions to the gay and lesbian citizens of her state.

“I have been open and consistent in my opposition to same-gender marriage, and find that House Bill 444 is essentially marriage by another name,” Lingle said at a news conference on the deadline to veto bills for the year.

Lingle, in her statement, caved to the vocal religious right and used the old canard of many in the anti-marriage equality camp saying the issue was too important for just the legislature or the governor to decide.

That sound you just heard is my head exploding.

Once again, the very lives of gay and lesbian people are being left up to the tender mercies of the majority. Once again, the minority will be subjected to the whims, and frankly the tyranny, of the majority in a country where the Founders were clear that such a thing should never happen.

When, exactly, did this shift occur? When, exactly, did lawmakers lose the nerve to actually do the right thing—instead bowing to the tyranny of the majority themselves—all the while making excuses for their own inaction? When did it become acceptable to put the rights of a minority up for a vote of the majority instead of relying on legislatures and courts to enforce the rights of minorities despite majority (especially majority religious) resistance? The courts and legislatures have been the site of all the other civil rights decisions over the years. Why are they not now—over this one issue of fairness for gays and lesbians?

Imagine for a moment if the Supreme Court had said, “No, we believe the people should decide if separate but equal should be the law of the land. Such a big decision should not be left to a small panel of nine justices.”

Perhaps, this country would be so much better off if Lyndon Johnson had just backed off and said, “Wait, we can’t legislate morality here. There are lots of good Christian people who object to this and we can’t leave such an important question as equality in all areas of society to a small group of legislators and one insignificant president. No, let’s let the people decide if they want to accept black people as equals. Who are we to legislate fairness?”

The only progress in government that has ever truly been made in the area of equal rights for any group—be they African Americans, women, or any other minority—has come from the courage of a small group of people who have been imbued with the legal power to stand up and not just advocate for fairness, but to impose it on the majority for the good of all.

Gov. Lingle has this power—but she refuses to use in the name of justice, and instead, the twice divorced governor is feeling pretty good about taking her stand for the “sanctity of marriage” while denying rights and equality to a minority. I do hope she can sleep at night knowing she sold out the ideals of our Founding Fathers.

The civil-unions law was more than fair—including heterosexual couples as well as homosexual—and did not violate Hawaii’s constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage. It’s not marriage by another name, Gov. Lingle, it’s fairness—in all its many names.