Lingle, sort of, addresses her upcoming decision on civil unions

Travis Quezon

HONOLULU—Having returned from a two-week economic development mission in China and Japan, Gov. Linda Lingle addressed reporters today about Hawaii’s civil unions bill—a bill the governor called the most critical issue this legislative session for Hawaii residents.

House Bill 444 was one of 39 bills placed on a potential veto list, which was not a surprise to the public. Lingle had previously stated that she would take as much time as she could to come to a decision on whether or not to veto the bill. HB444 extends the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities of spouses in a marriage to partners in a civil union. By establishing the status of civil unions in Hawaii, the bill states, it is not the Legislature’s intent to revise the definition or eligibility requirements of marriage under chapter 572, Hawaii Revised Statutes.

“[House Bill] 444 is the most difficult [bill to make a decision on], there’s no question,” Lingle said. “And what makes it the most difficult is the intensity and the feelings on the part of the public.”

Lingle, who had met with members of the community who were for and against civil unions since the session ended, said she had no more meetings planned before July 6—the final day the governor has to veto HB444, sign it into law, or let it become law without her signature. The governor is required by the Hawaii Constitution to give the Legislature 10 days notice of any bill she is considering vetoing, prior to the deadline when she must take final action.

“I’m still considering everyone’s point of view and I haven’t made up my mind yet,” Lingle said.

The governor also said she wants to make sure that the presentation of her decision, whichever that may be, is presented in a proper way to the public.

“When the decision gets made, we all have to live together in Hawaii,” Lingle explained. “Whichever way this goes, we’re still one ohana. You may disagree with me, but we’re still living on an island together.”

At the press conference, Lingle did not go into the details of the process in coming to a decision on HB444. The governor said she would speak frankly about it after July 6.

The only “veto explanation” for HB444 given on a statement from the governor’s office simply states: “[HB444] Extends the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities of spouses in a marriage to partners in a civil union.”

The governor acknowledged, but did not go into detail, about the letter sent last week by the Hawaii Business Roundtable (HBR) that was against civil unions or the follow-up letters sent by HBR members, which stated that they supported civil unions.

“Bottom line is, I’ll make what I believe is the best decision for Hawaii,” Lingle said.

Public comments on the 39 bills being considered for vetoes on July 6 may be sent to the Governor’s office:

Email: [email protected] or [email protected]

Fax:  (808) 586-0006

Mail:  Office of the Governor
      Hawaii State Capitol, Executive Chambers
      Honolulu, Hawaii 96813