Civil-unions factions weigh in
By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer
Gov. Linda Lingle will meet with parties on both sides of the controversial civil-unions bill next week to help her decide whether to sign the bill, veto it, or allow it to become law without her signature.
HB444 would give same-sex and heterosexual couples who enter into civil unions the same rights and benefits as married couples. The measure appeared to be dead this past session after the Senate approved it, but the House revived it on the last day of the session and passed it by a 31-20 vote.
Lingle has said she will not rush her decision on the measure and indicated she wants to meet with supporters and opponents before taking action. The governor has until July 6 to decide, but must provide lawmakers with a list of potential vetoes on pending bills by June 21.
In a press release announcing her weekly schedule, the governor said she will sit down with leaders on the civil-unions issue Monday and Tuesday. The meetings will not be open to the public or media.
Garret Hashimoto, state chairman of the Hawaii Christian Coalition, said his group will meet with Lingle for an hour on Monday afternoon. Among the 15 people who will accompany him will be a group of teenage students, Hashimoto said.
"I would like the governor to know that this bill also interests the youth," Hashimoto said. "These are youths from traditional families and they would like to see that it's kept that way and no special rights are given to gay people as are married couples."
He added that his message to the governor will be that this bill is not about civil rights, but about "legitimizing a lifestyle to which I, and I believe the vast majority of the populace here in Hawai'i, are opposed to."
Jessie Faige, of Pride at Work Hawai'i, said her group will be among several organizations that will meet with Lingle on Tuesday. Also expected at the meeting are members of the Interfaith Alliance, Equality Hawai'i and The Moms, a support group for parents of gay children.
Faige said supporters will ask the governor to "do the right thing" and sign the measure.
"The decision is very easy and the right thing to do is to sign this into law," Faige said. "Specifically, from Pride at Work, we talk about the unequal treatment in the workplace that lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender workers face, a chance to get health care benefits, bereavement leave, retirement and all kinds of things that are attached to marriage and opposite -sex couples."
Although Lingle said she has not made up her mind on the issue, she said at the recent state GOP convention that the civil-unions bill appears to be the same as same-sex marriage. Lingle had said in the past that she would consider some form of domestic partnership legislation, but would oppose same-sex marriage.
Hashimoto said he attended the convention and that two-thirds of the participants wore "Veto HB444" stickers. He said he hoped that Lingle got the message.
"That gives an indication where the party stands, and our governor is supposed to be one of the leaders of the Republican Party. So I hope she listens to the voices in her party," he said.
Faige said she hopes Lingle has not made up her mind and will listen to the proponents of the bill at their meeting next week.
"We feel that this is another opportunity to make sure she hears a wide range of viewpoints in support of the bill," Faige said. "Hopefully this will help to give her the information she needs to make up her mind. If she's already decided against the bill, hopefully it will give her pause."