Lambda Legal and ACLU Ready Lawsuit Following Veto of HB 444
News Release from ACLU of Hawaii
July 06, 2010
(Honolulu, July 6, 2010) — Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai`i (ACLU) reacted today with deep disappointment following Hawai`i Governor Linda Lingle’s veto of HB 444, which would have allowed gay and straight Hawai`i couples to take legal responsibility for each other by entering civil unions. Having received strong majority votes by both houses of the Hawai`i Legislature, the bill was given final approval on April 29, the last day of the session. Lingle had until July 6 to take action on the bill.
“This was a sad surrender to political expediency that does not support business or family interests, but damages them,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, National Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal. “In caving in to a well-orchestrated disinformation campaign mounted by the bill’s opponents, Governor Lingle has abandoned thousands of Hawai`i families who have needed this bill’s protections for many years. We’re also disappointed that the Legislature opted to not override this veto immediately — we would have preferred to see couples win fair treatment through the political branch rather than having to pursue legal action. However, we’re still ready to do what’s necessary so our clients can protect their loved ones.”
Lambda Legal and the ACLU had readied a lawsuit after the House tabled HB 444 in January. The Hawai`i Senate had previously approved the bill by a veto-proof 18 to 7 majority and sent it back to the House for a conforming vote.
“We’re obviously disappointed that Governor Lingle has, once again, used her power to deny the people of Hawai`i their civil rights” said Laurie Temple, Staff Attorney for the ACLU. “Luckily for the people of Hawai`i, however, our constitution prevents discrimination based on sexual orientation. If the Governor won’t honor her oath to uphold the constitution, the courts will.”
Hawai`i’s constitution was amended in 1998 to allow the Legislature to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples, which it has done. This means same-sex couples cannot sue for full equality through marriage. Although civil unions are a lesser status than marriage, they would provide a full range of state law protections and duties to gay and lesbian couples, such as access to family court to dissolve the legal status in an orderly way, clear duties to pay child support and alimony as spouses must, and other vital protections. Bills to offer civil unions have been under steady consideration in the Hawai`i Legislature each year since 2001.