HB 444 takes a side trip to China

Gov. Linda Lingle is taking all the time available to her to decide on the civil unions bill, HB 444, but the big question is this: Is she really undecided on whether to veto or is she only deciding how to present her veto?

A veto seemed a foregone conclusion as soon as Lingle publicly expressed the opinion that civil unions are just same-sex marriage by another name, which has become standard GOP code in opposing any kind of gay unions.

She’s always said she opposes same-sex marriage and to allow HB 444 to become law with or without her signature would be seen as a slap at her Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona, who has made opposition to civil unions a key issue in his campaign to succeed her, and the Republican Party in which she hopes to find a future after she leaves office.

Before leaving on a trip to China that will take her close to the June 21 deadline to signal her intention to the Legislature, Lingle indicated it has become more a matter of how to present her decision.

“This is something that people feel very strongly about on both sides,” she said.  “I’ve had a chance to meet and get to know people on both sides of this, and I don’t want whatever decision I make to in any way diminish one side or the other or make one side or the other feel I’m being judgmental in any way.

“As you know, words are important, they are important to me, and I want to get it right, whatever my decision is.”

At least she’s elevating the dialogue by showing sensitivity to all sides and avoiding the inflammatory political rhetoric that usually surrounds the issue.

If she delivers the expected veto with an uncombative message, it’ll be interesting to see if it emboldens Democratic legislators to try an override.

The conventional wisdom is they won’t after the House came up short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto when it passed HB 444 by a vote of 31-20.

But you never know what can happen if lawmakers call an override session on other bills. After all, House leaders said they weren’t going to take up civil unions at all in 2010 — until they did in a surprise vote at the end of the session.

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19 Comments on “HB 444 takes a side trip to China”

  1. hipoli Says:

    Hi Dave –

    Well, Ive made it to your new (?) blog. Let me just express how saddened I am by some of the changes that have/are about to occur with HA, with the blogs, and now all those wonderful people who have lost their jobs. I watched a newsclip last night & my heart sunk. Im glad youre sticking around – but this all sure does suck.

    As for 444 – expect a veto. And that will be that. No over-ride will come. No way. Then Hooser will try to make it into a huge campaign issue – get too hung up on it – and unfortunately for him and then also the spill off on Abercrombie – it will just hurt their campaigns.

  2. Kolea Says:

    Hey Dave!

    Congratulations on your new home.

    You provided a clear-sighted analysis on this one.

    One small quibble. You wrote that calling civil unions “marriage by another name” is “GOP code.” Yeah, it’s “code,” but unfortunately, it was “Democrats” Mike Gabbard and Dennis Arakaki who first came up with that spin. While most Democratic legislators rejected that misleading formulation, others embraced and repeated the mantra.

    And, it should be noted, GOP reps Cynthia Thielen and Barbara Marumoto rejected that “logic” as well.

    So not all backward, prejudiced thinking can properly be attributed to the Republicans. We Democrats also have some members who fear equality and would prefer the gays just “go away.”

  3. zzzzzz Says:

    I’m not so sure that Lingle has already decided to veto.

    My guess is she’s leaning that way, probably quite strongly, but she’s leaving the door open to a very strong push from 444 supporters. I don’t think she’s ideologically committed one way or the other.

  4. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    Would someone please clarify what Colleeen Hanabusa’s position on same sex marriage is. Mahalo

    Here is the civil unions vote: 1/22/2010 S Passed Third Reading. Ayes, 18; Aye(s) with reservations: none. Noes, 7 (Senator(s) Bunda, Espero, Gabbard, Hemmings, Kim, Sakamoto, Slom). Excused, 0 (none). Transmitted to House.

    However, in a story by Richard Borreca on Monda, May 31, about Ed’s withdrawal from the race, the Jones Act and same sex marraige were selected as two defining issues that separate them – Case opposes the Jones Act and supports same sex marriage while Collen supports the Jones Act and opposed same sex marriage.

    How will this play out in the campaign – clearly Colleen’s vote supports civil unions….but what about the push to equate civil unions with same sex marriage?

  5. Ross Says:

    If Lingle vetoes this bill, her legacy will be denying equal treatment under the law to a segment of the population. Civil unions are not same sex marriage by another name, and Lingle has been fully educated on this topic. I am not so convinced that she will veto but I am not convinced that she will let it become law either. I really just don’t know. Politicians are learning that in 2010, there is just as much risk in opposing gay civil rights as their used to be in supporting it. Why do you think Mufi still hasn’t opposed HB444? Other Republican Governors have signed civil union or domestic partnership bills into law including CT’s Jodi Rell and CA’s Arnold Schwarzenegger.

  6. WooWoo Says:

    I think that the odds clearly favor a veto. Lingle would get skewered if she vetoed and left town, (or allowed it to become law and left town), so putting it on the back burner until she returns is the only non-cowardly political thing to do.

    I read somewhere (maybe it was a depledge tweet) that Lingle said that Aiona won’t veto it while she’s gone. Let’s assume that she told him directly, “don’t touch HB444 while I’m gone.” but what happens if he walks into her office, lifts the bill from her desk, and vetoes while she is out of state? Any attorneys care to comment on this hypothetical? Does the veto stand?

  7. Ross Says:

    Ed Case officially supports full marriage for same-sex couples. To my knowledge, based on what I have read, Colleen Hanabusa does not support full marriage for same-sex couples, but does support civil unions. That there is such widespread public support for civil unions that exceeds 60% but for same-sex marriage we are probably in the 30-40% range, 50% at best in some places demonstrates that the public does perceive a difference between civil unions and marriage. They are not the same.

  8. WooWoo Says:

    side comment-

    I was disappointed to see that Abercrombie leapt so quickly to support Hanabusa. Methinks that del Castillo is more of a kindred spirit to Neil than Hanabusa.

  9. David Shapiro Says:

    WooWoo, the LG is acting governor when she’s out of state and can legally act on bills, which he’s done before. But I presume they have an arrangement on this one.

  10. Ross Says:

    It was reported in yesterday’s Advertiser that Aiona would NOT take action in HB444 while Lingle is away (towards end of article).

    http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/20100602/NEWS03/6020328/No early decision on civil unions

  11. Scott Goold Says:

    Aloha ~
    I’m not going to make predictions about Lingle’s decision because I’m sadly persuaded she won’t do the right thing to further equality for ALL Americans. She’s simply not a courageous leader.

    Yet while in China, I hope she takes some time to review their public education system. An exchange student from China, Vivian Chen, stayed with us the other night. I spoke with her in depth about the public education system in her home town in China, Linfen.

    After middle school their curriculum becomes very intense. Students begin the formal school day at 6:50am and end at 10:10pm. They get two hours breaks for both lunch and dinner yet Vivian told me few take this time off. They eat quickly and return to their classrooms for additional instruction and help. They do not play sports; they do not work full or part time jobs. They study … study … and study.

    They go to school about the same number of days – 20 days off during the Chinese New Year and around two months off in the summer. Yet clearly the demands are higher.

    With over a billion people in their country; living in a nation that considers itself developing – rather than developed – there is a collective sense they must compete rigorously to move themselves and their nation to the next level. Many American students with whom I talk tell me they are just cruisin along. Where is our sense of urgency?

    While talking with Vivian it is clear she is exceptionally bright and talented – yet not more so than Hawai’i’s students. She has a humble, sweet personality which endears her to those she meets. Clearly she lives aloha.

    She has spent two years at an American university. I incorrectly said this will make her a junior this fall … nope, she plans to graduate next year – in only three. She has taken more than the traditional number of credits each semester – although passing on summer school.

    Now that furlough Fridays appear to be behind us, it’s time to get back to work improving the proficiency performance of our keiki.


  12. zzzzzz Says:

    Given that Lingle hasn’t notified the legislature of any intent to veto HB444, would a veto by Aiona while Lingle is in China be legal? I’m pretty sure it would at least be challenged in court.

    Didn’t HanabUSA conspire to kill a civil unions bill a couple of years ago? I don’t think she’s ideologically committed to equal rights for same-sex couples, which leads me to wonder where her values lie, and whether she’s a true liberal Dem.

    Capitol- ist, thanks for reminding me about this.

  13. Ross Says:

    In 2009, Senator Hanabusa was not consistent with her support of HB444. I cannot use the word conspire as that I do not know. What we believe to be true is that after the bill stalled in JGO, she was initially supportive of having it pulled to the floor. When the pull vote came on 3/25/09, she voted against it and her committee chairs were against it as well, even though the JGO Chair and Vice Chair supported the bill in committee. The 3/25 pull vote failed. Then on 5/7/09, there was a successful pull vote in HB444 HD1 that brought the bill back to the floor. Senator Hanabusa voted against this. Once the bill was brought back to the floor, instead of just passing it on 2nd reading and then coming back in 48 hours for third and final reading (and onwards to Lingle), she had it amended into SD1, passed on 2nd reading, but as an amended bill, there was no time to actually pass it on 3rd reading and send it back to the House before close of session. So in effect, her hands were involved in preventing it’s final passage in 2009, however, she kept it alive and passed in 2nd reading. It then carried over to the 2010 session where she passed the SD1 version on 1/22/10 with one vote in excess of a supermajority.

  14. 3keys Says:

    I think everyone needs to see how this bill impacts those who are against civil unions. For example if passed, the Catholic Church and Catholic Schools in Hawaii would have to offer civil union partners the same benefits as married couples, whether they are same sex or heterosexual couples. Since the Catholic Church also does not support sexual union outside of marriage, this bill, if passed, would force the Church to go against its morals.

  15. ccpp12 Says:

    It would be unwise for Lingle to veto the CU bill. To start there are certain assumptions made that are not accurate. The ONLY ones against the Civil union bill are the strongly religious and yes they are very vocal but a MINORITY in Hawaii. The majority of people in Hawaii believe in fairness and equality, which the Civil union appears to be based on, & as some lawyers pointed out, are not even close to same sex marriage. For one thing CU are NOT federally recognized like a marriages in Hawaii. If Lingle wants to help out Aiona, she would let the bill become law without her signature. Her veto would create a backlash against Aiona for all of the moderate Democrats and Republicans who support CU in Hawaii. These people will instead support Abercrombie who has said he is for CU. Aiona’s only real chance is if he makes the governors’ race a referendum on rail but without a CU veto hanging over his and the Republican party’s head. The explanation given is the CU is an issue of equality and NOT a validation of any type of lifestyle.

    As far as Lingle’s future plans such as taking over for one of the 2 Dan’s in Washington DC, the strongly religious are NOT her base and I would think it would be accurate to say generally NOT the ones with the $$$ who would be willing to support her many years into the future. People who have deep pockets that live in Hawaii and are not part of the Union influenced Democratic party are moderate Repubs & Democrats. The very people she will turn off by vetoing the CU bill. Maybe reading too much in her earlier comments. There was a movie called the Chorus Line with Michael Douglas as a producer who had to choose a handful of dancers among hundreds. In the end when only a handful remained, he put them in a line and called half of them to step forward. The ones who got their name called and stepped forward thought they were chosen but in the end, the ones who stood in the back were Douglas’s final choice for his musical. I think Lingles best move, for her own future political aspirations and Aiona’s, is to do what Michael Douglas did in that movie, that is let the people in front think they have been chosen when in reality go with the people in the back, who are the less vocal majority but are the ones with the means to help the governor in the future.

  16. shaftalley Says:

    this is what gov’t. entitlements have done to our society.we expect certain privileges from the state.in the case of same sex marriage and civil unions.gay people demand and expect the full protection and recognition fromthe gov’t. that straight married people have takenfor granted and enjoyed ever since the gov’t. intruded into the personal lives of its’ citizens.and they will get it sooner than later.political pressure and common sense.otherwise folks would have married without any concern.we allow the state to control our lives in this fashion.

  17. Ross Says:

    @3keys. I am not so sure that HB444 would force catholic instituions to provide health benefits to civil union partners. I am not a lawyer and this is complex, but in other stated with civil union laws, employers are often able to ignore the state law because many employer benefit programs are governed under the federal ERISA law and federal law trumps state law. Federal law does not require recognition of same-sex marriages or civil unions.

    That said, private organizations that accept state funding are often bound to accept certain terms of a contract. If the state law says you can’t discriminate and you want state funds, you follow the ruled or don’t accept state money. Money always comes with strings attached.

    As to your claim that civil unions would force the church to go against it’s morals, I respect that a church has a right to determine it’s own morals. But it is not up to the state to impose the Church’s morals on everyone AND the church’s moral concerns are NOT legal or constitutional reasons to deny people equal treatment under the law.

    Finally, as Jew, the Catholic Church’s “moral” concerns are of no importance to me. My faith thinks differently on this. 3 of the 4 main denominations of Judaism, (including the 2 largest Reform and Conservative) allow rabbis to perform same sex marriages and same sex civil unions.

    So why in the world should I be expected to abide Church rules……just as I would never think about imposing my Jewish beliefs on others.

    HB444 is about providing equal rights under the law. Nothing more. Nothing less. It has no impact in freedom of religion.

    Oh and many people of faith or “the religious” stand in support of HB444. “religious” opposition is primarily Catholic and evangelical Protestants.

    There is much mainstream Protestant, Jewish, and Buddhist support for HB444. Even LDS has been silent as a church.

  18. 3keys Says:

    Ross Says:

    If the majority of Hawaii’s voters support HB444, why not let everyone vote on it via constitutional amendment like we did in 1998. This is the fairest way to determine the voters’ will. Also, in my comments, I mentioned the Catholic Church not supporting civil unions in both instances: same sex and heterosexual unions outside of marriage. The Catholic Church does not receive state monies.

    Again, let the voters decide -not some late hour decision that wasn’t publicized that a vote would take place.

  19. Ross Says:

    The voters did decide. The 98 amendement does not ban same-sex marriage and doesn’t even mention civil union or the provision of legal recognition and rights to same sex couples. It’s only legal effect is to grant sole ownership of the legal status of marriage to the legislature. Legally, the legislature is free to legalize full marrige for same sex couples if it chooses. It reads “the Legislature shall have to power to reserve marriage to opposite sex couples.” it says nothing more.

    Finally, using your logic of letting the voters decide, would you support letting the voters decide to ban mixed race marriages or take away the right of women to vote?

    My legal same sex marriage (not civil union) does not harm an opposite sex couple’s
    marriage in any way. The only people who have a vote on my marriage is my husband and me.

    Would you like me to vote on your marriage?

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