Gay unions continue to divide

I was a little surprised that public support for the civil unions bill passed by the 2010 Legislature failed to break 50 percent in the latest Star-Advertiser poll.

The poll found that 48 percent favored HB 444, which passed both houses but was vetoed by Gov. Linda Lingle, while 44 percent opposed the bill and the rest were undecided. The poll had a 4 percent margin of error.

Even among those who identified themselves as Democrats — a party where the sun rises and sets by civil unions these days — only 61 percent supported the measure. Republican support was a minuscule 20 percent.

I didn’t expect overwhelming support for gay unions; voters rejected same-sex marriage by a 2 to 1 margin just 12 years ago.

But I thought that giving gays the legal rights of marriage without calling it marriage would be enough of a middle ground to win over a majority in our socially liberal state.

Lawmakers will take note of the continuing sharp divisions in public opinion, but they’ll take more note of the general election results.

Rep. Blake Oshiro says he’ll introduce the bill again if he’s returned to office, and if Neil Abercrombie is elected governor and Democrats maintain their overwhelming majority in the Legislature without serious fallout from HB 444, there’s little question that a civil unions bill will be passed and signed into law early next year.

But if James “Duke” Aiona, a wins the governorship and any Democratic legislative losses are attributed to civil unions, Democrats will again have trouble rallying enough votes to override Aiona’s promised veto.

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10 Comments on “Gay unions continue to divide”

  1. Rev. Carolyn Martinez Golojuch, SW Says:

    The public has such short memories. In 1998 a couple of days after the Constitutional Amendment that supposedly saved marriage by denying civil rights for marriage freedom, Mike Gabbard and Leon Siu said that gays could have anything now that marriage had been saved. Yet Gabbard and Siu fight for discrimination within the marriage realm inspite of their words 12 years ago. Civil Unions isn’t freedom to marry as it is not recognized by the Federal Government and lacks those benefits that come with Federal acknowledgment. When will our state recognize all it’s citizens??

  2. Scott Goold Says:

    Aloha ~
    Hawai’i is not a socially liberal state and there no longer is a middle ground in American politics. Extremism rules because this is what SELLS the 24/7 news cycle.

    Let me give you an example. On HawaiiNewNow, Kim Gennaula asked Lt. Governor Aiona about legalizing marijuana. His response:

    “Absolutely not. The gain that you could get in taxes are going to be greatly outweighed by the cost that you’re going to have in all the social issues that come with the use of marijuana. The teen pregnancy, the suicides, the domestic violence, etc. It all comes with the use of marijuana. So I’m not in favor of this bill, nor do I think it’s going to benefit us in any way.”

    Marijuana, per the lunacy of James Aiona, leads to ALL teen pregnancy, suicide, domestic violence, ETC, ETC, ETC.

    Not alcohol, not poor parenting, not the absence of personal responsibility … no, ALL our social ills stem from marijuana use. And, Aiona is running for governor??? Tell me it ain’t so, Joe!

    In Aiona’s version of reality, marijuana also led Muslims to attack the U.S. on 9/11.

    How can there be a Middle Ground with politicians who believe and speak this way? There is simply no recognition of reality on the part of Republicans, conservatives and TEA crackpots!

    Tied to the positions of the loony right is their arrogance: “This is not a time for compromise, and I can tell you that we will not compromise on our principles,” possible Speaker of the House, John Boehner said during an appearance on conservative Sean Hannity’s radio show.

    The Middle Ground is sinking fast due to an irresponsible tsunami created by the right.


  3. Kolea Says:

    I think these numbers are accurate. Just as I think the numbers from January 2009, which showed almost two thirds support for civil unions, were accurate. The 2009 poll was conducted BEFORE the whole thing blew up into a highly polarized culture war circus.

    FOr years, LGBT activists had been pushing for complete same-sex marriage. That demand had caused a lot of moderate people to want to find a compromise. So it was very common for even conservatives to say, “I have no problem with them having equal legal rights, but why do they insist on calling it ‘marriage’?”

    So the LGBT activists adopted a more incrementalist approach. They would agree to the social conservatives demand that the term “marriage” be reserved for opposite sex relationships, provided all the legal rights within the power of the State be granted to the new legal form, which would be called a “civil union.”

    This compromise satisfied the reservations most people had expressed and lined up with what had come to be implicitly accepted as the “commonsense” resolution to the conflict. The QMark poll confirmed this. And, I BELIEVE, the Hawaii Family Forum’s own poll showed the same thing. SO they suppressed the numbers, refusing to share their data on acceptance of”civil unions” and releasing ONLY the results to question measuring opposition to granting full same-sex marriage.

    Rather than accept the civil unions compromise, the anti-gay equality forces adopted a PR strategy which changed the terms of debate. Rather than agree the LGBT activists had compromised, they attacked them as “sneaky,” saying they were “playing word games.” That “civil unions are just marriage under another name.” And they launched their mass mobilization, using the conservative churches as their flock, bussing them in to scare the politicians, create a high-level of public controversy and force people to line up on one side or the other.

    The intensity of the resulting divisiveness caused many people to hope for a compromise in the hope of re-establishing social peace. The earlier position :”Just don’t call it marriage,” had been rejected by the Right, so what more could be given away to satisfy them and calm them down, making the issue go away?

    But the anti-gay mobilization serves the interests of a lot of ambitious people, even as it divides our society and disturbs social harmony. In fact, it is BECAUSE it is so divisive that it serves the ambitions of politicians and allows certain religious “leaders” and activists to build their organizations. It also distracts the public from other, more important problems.

    The new leadership of the Hawaii GOP sees opposition to gay equality as a “red meat” social issue capable of arousing the anger of a large portion of the voters, creating the possibility of splitting off voters from the Democrats they have voted for in the past. Most of the new, down-ticket GOP candidates recruited by Jonah Kaauwai and the GOP are born-again religious activists opposed to gay equality.

    Unless we explicitly ask the question, “Who benefits” from the anti-gay mobilization, we will fail to understand why it continues its momentum and why thy refuse to grant equality to their fellow citizens. Yes, there is widespread discomfort with homosexuality among the people. But there is widespread discomfort with low wages, high medical costs, traffic jams, environmental degradation. Those issues do not lend themselves to easy resolution or to mass mobilization. Keeping the gays “in their place” by denying passage of civil unions can easily be defined as a victory. And it helps elect politicians without forcing them to solve any of the real problems facing the people of Hawaii.

    After two years, many of Hawaii’s people have “issue fatigue” with civil unions and want it to go away. The right won’t back down, so maybe the gays should “just accept” second class citizenship. Voters are splitting down the middle on how to make the issue go away.

    But Tuesday’s vote on Governor will determine whether CUs will pass and be signed into law. If Neil is elected, the best way of making the issue “go away” will be for the Lege to pass the bill again and have Neil sign it into law. Pau.

    If Aiona wins, the Dems will not have a majority willing to endure the battle in the faced of a sure veto. The focus of the struggle will shift to the lawsuit and away from the Lege.

  4. Dave: the most recent Star Advertiser – Hawaii News Now poll is out of sync with previous Hawaii polls conducted by QMark in 2008 and 2009 as well as national polling. Overall, at a low, we hover around 60% for support of civil unions and 70s and sometimes low 80% when just focusing on specific rights civil unions would provide as opposed to the label “civil union” or “hb444.”

    What should not be missed here is that despite an almost 2 year negative campaign by our opponents who grossly misrepresented HB444 to be “same-sex marriage by another name” the highest figures of support in this poll are still for civil unions (48%) and we don’t know the opinion of the 11% who refused to answer or “don’t know.” I suspect that people are battle weary already.

    Given that the QMark poll results have been consistent with all other national polls, I trust their accuracy. Additionally, as Kolea indicated above, our opponents never released any civil unions/hb444 questions from their polling. Hawaii Family Forum only released results on a same-sex marriage question, which were not favorable to us, however, a same-sex marriage bill was not being considered.

  5. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    As someone who spends a significant amount of time working on a number of different social justice issues which impact far greater numbers of our local folks than civil unions, I find it frustrating at best to have to keep coming back to fight this issue.

    For example, there is a strong under-current of support amongst the GOP candidates to (re-)establish the death penalty. Another issue which I find truly horrifying is to intervene in a woman’s right to have a safe & legal abortion. A third issue on their political plates is to increase the power of the counties to criminalize homelessness. And a fourth issue is to weaken, if not remove altogether, the government’s right to intervene in certain kinds of family-related behaviors.

    As to the number of legislative seats the GOPPERS will hold come Wednesday morning, fortunately they will not take more than three net seats – more likely, it will be a wash.

  6. Michael Says:

    Both Governor Candidates have no problem with Civil Union. It is Same Sex Marriage that is not accepted by both. Civil Union is Civil Rights, no doubt about that fact. Same Sex Marriage is in doubt and that is a fact. Clarify the wording for Civil Union or forever hold your Peace. Accepted is Civil Rights.
    Military is changing their policy, Don’t Ask, Don’t tell.

    “Civil Union is a Legal Union of Same Sex Couple sanctioned by a Civil Authority”. Who is Civil Authority?

    Alan, you present a good comment but too bad you contradict yourself from present and past comments you make. You said, not about Same Sex Marriage, then it not entirely about Civil Union, since we all agree Civil Union is Civil Rights. But? You twist it to sound like Same Sex Marriage. If not Same Sex Marriage, then what in your words is it About? LGBTs are recognized as People of Hawaii and the World, but what else you want? Same Sex Marriage, in so many different words but it is Still Same Sex Marriage, Not Civil Union.

    You have my persmission. Go get Married and at least by me, you are recognized as Mr. and Mr.
    I just became a Civil Authority.

  7. Scott Goold Says:

    Aloha Michael ~
    You’re not a civil authority. That would be a Justice of the Peace; a judge; a sheriff; a captain of a ship.

    If LGBTs are recognized as people, then they can marry who they choose. It’s not up to a religion – yet nobody should force a church, masjid or synagogue to do something they believe is against their faith.

    Thus, PEOPLE can rely on the services of a civil authority. God doesn’t care … only humans are stupid enough to make a big deal over this.


  8. hipoli Says:

    Just Do The Right Thing.

    Vote for Neil and Brian.

  9. Michael Says:

    Aiona is a Judge or was, does that make him an Authority to decide on Civil Issues? If he is, he sure did not show his capabilty to do so. He would Veto by Wording in which Lingle did from the beginning. lingle who is also qualified as a Civil Authority, Captain of Islands, did not make a decision she alone in office could not make but let the public decide.

    I am part of the Public and lingle doing the Veto made me a Civil Authority.

  10. hugh clark Says:

    Out of synch?

    I have resided here for 44 plus years and used to take pride in Hawaii’s openness — whether it was religious or racial or sexual-orientation (long before the same sex marriage scare and the Pat Robertson fiasco that emasculated the GOP).

    I am not sure the many folks who have left me would know their grand old place: too bigoted, self-serving as to religious bent or lifestyle.

    Diversity is our real strength.

    We should not forsake nor foget it.

    I was not a fan of John Burns when he served but now I believe he did leave us life lessons to be considered.

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