(CNN) – Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed a civil unions bill Tuesday that would have given same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples, saying the issue needs to be put to a referendum.
"I am vetoing this bill because I have become convinced that this issue is of such significant societal importance that it deserves to be decided directly by all the people of Hawaii," said Lingle, a Republican whose term ends this year.
"The subject of this legislation has touched the hearts and minds of our citizens as no other social issue of our day. It would be a mistake to allow a decision of this magnitude to be made by one individual or a small group of elected officials."
Gay rights group decried Lingle's decision.
"Today was the first time a civil unions bill passed both Houses in Hawaii by solid margins and was on the Governor's desk for signing," Jo-Ann Adams, chair of the GLBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, said in a statement. "With such broad support from the legislators, who are the elected officials closest to the public, and the consistent results of the professional polls showing broad support for civil unions as a civil rights issue, we are deeply disappointed that the Governor ignored the will of the people and vetoed the bill. "
Another group, Equality Hawaii, said the fight for equal rights will continue.
"Today is a sad day for the thousands of Hawaii families who remain second class citizens," said Alan Spector, legislative affairs co-chair for Equality Hawaii.
The governor said she understands why supporters of the bill are upset by her decision.
"This is a decision that should not be made by one person sitting in her office or by members of the Majority Party behind closed doors in a legislative caucus, but by all the people of Hawaii behind the curtain of the voting booth," Lingle said in a statement.
"And while some will disagree with my decision to veto this bill, I hope most will agree that the flawed process legislators used does not reflect the dignity this issue deserves, and that a vote by all the people of Hawaii is the best and fairest way to address an issue that elicits such deeply felt emotion by those both for and against."
When the bill passed in April, civil union supporters cheered in the Capitol rotunda. But Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona said at the time lawmakers shouldn't have approved the measure.
"If the legislature wanted to establish the equivalent of same-sex marriage, they should have put it on the ballot for the people to decide," he said then.
Some religious groups had urged the governor to veto the legislation.
"We need you to mount a campaign to flood the governor's office with requests to veto the bill," Larry Silva, Catholic bishop of Honolulu, wrote on the diocese of Honolulu's website at the time.
Five U.S. states and the District of Columbia issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Hawaii would join New Jersey in allowing civil unions.
Three states - Rhode Island, New York, and Maryland - recognize same-sex marriages from other states, according to the conference.
California recognizes same-sex marriages performed during six months in 2008 after its Supreme Court granted same-sex couples the right to marry and before the passage of Proposition 8, which overturned the court's decision.
Imagine that – a Republican denying equal rights to a party that they have no vested interest in. It's not marriage – it's just providing the same basic rights that everyone should have. Once again, our government officials cave in to the lobbyists and the religious right. Odd how easily they forget about the whole "separation of church and state" in the First Amendment – as long as it lines up with the Republican party's conservative beliefs.
I'm fine with the religious right vocalizing their concerns and objections; what I am not fine with is our political representatives constantly 'caving in' to their incessant demands. We all have a right to believe in what we want; where that right ends is when we start to force those on others.
gee some one in office who allows the people to make the law... how refreshing..
Giving people equal rights should not be left up to the people. Look at all the bigots crawling out of the woodwork with a black man in the White House. Is she serious? Let people with prejudices vote on the civil rights of others? Why? Protecting the rights of our citizens is a job for government. And it's time they either take this responsibility seriously or give up the job the people entrusted to you.
This whole issue sucks
How is representative democracy a "flawed process?" It's American.
Our government should offer everyone civil contracts and leave the semantics of 'marriage' to individual churches. This solution would uphold religious freedoms, the equality clause, and separation of church & state. A win-win.
That simply allows organized religion to attempt to usurp the humans rights of gay people.
The republican party is DEFINITELY on the wrong side of history in this civil rights arena and time will show it. Polls show that voters under the age of 30 completely support gay right including marriage equality. Too bad this narrow minded homophobe can see the writing on the wall!
Wrong. If the state constitution says people are equal then ALL people are equal and should be treated that way. You don't vote on a single issue that would go against that!
Just where in the constitution does it say anything about marriage between two people? Just another excuse for Repubs to have their interpretation which is largely driven by personal beliefs rather than law. Let's hope the good people of HA don't put a Repub back in her seat! HA is way too cool for a Repub to hold that office anyway.
She's right. It needs to be decided by the people.
The Founding Fathers of our great country, well aware that the judgement of the populace, driven often by religious ideology, bigotry, personal zeal rather than the collective good, lacking the back ground, education, perspective of these great men who lacked the need for personal gain, these great men demonstrated and validated they possessed the guts to decided and not to leave crucial questions of the rights and liberties of the citizenry, to mob judgment: Hitler did. They had the person courage, character and experience to make, and accept, responsibility for the decisions that ultimately made our country what it is today.
Lingle, under the guise of seeking a 'decision of this magnitude' to be made by referendum, is using her office to push her private agenda: an abuse of office, and the collective trust she was elected to demonstrate.
Such inauthenticity in office, such lack of candor and courage has reduced our great country to a second rate nation: shame, shame Gov. Lingle.
so this woman is proposing that the people actually vote on an issue?? well, this just won't do....waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too radical
What a cop out. That means anything legislators pass should be put to a vote. Why have a governor and legislature at all?
So Gov Lingle thinks "It would be a mistake to allow a decision of this magnitude to be made by one individual..."? What does she call what she just did? A single individual, her, decided for everyone in the state that gays and lesbians are not even entitled to second class civil unions.
I challenge the state of Hawaii to instead of putting the usual "one man/one woman" question on the ballot to put the real question on the ballot, "Shall gays and lesbians in the state of Hawaii be denied the same rights, benefits, and obligations that are provided to everyone else in the state?"
The GOP can always depend on their lies, their hate and fear, and their good old wedge issues.
And if it had been left up to a referendum this witch would not have been able to become governor. she'd be locked in the kitchen, chattel of her husband or father. Its time for the people of Hawaii to send this bigoted harpy packing.
This Governor is obviously a complete moron. Since when do we have a majority of people grant or deny a minority of people their civil rights? How would she like it if people voted on her rights.
the voters shouldbe the deciders, in a tn city the voters decided a matter the local city council didn't like the outcome and proposed sending it back for another vote, legislators often get it wrong, as a matter of fact, recently az on immigration and tn on guns
Someday here in America people will have the right to live their private lives without government interference. At that point America will become a Free nation.
Jo-Ann Adams, chair of the GLBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, if the "will of the people" in Hawaii is so strongly in favor of this sick piece of legislature, then why are you afraid of a public ballot vote??????
Maybe because you strong armed this through the legislature to try and get it passed and it is NOT the will of the people.
Let the voters decide. After all, they are closest to the public – much closer than any legislature representatives would be.
The people of Hawaii will defeat this in the ballots once and for all.
Since when do "people" have a say in how we run our lives!