Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Civil Unions Again an Issue in Hawaii

Two races this November that I am keeping an eye on, in addition to the ones I am already covering, are the Governor races in Hawaii and Rhode Island - the latter which I will discuss on Thursday in my series "The State of Equality".

The Governor race in Hawaii is very significant because of the impact that it could have on future Civil Unions legislation. As many of you will recall, earlier this month the Governor of Hawaii - a Republican - vetoed the civil unions legislation passed through the Hawaii Congress. Though the legislature did not have enough votes  to override the veto of the Governor, the fact that it got through Congress shows that there is wide support in Hawaii for Civil Unions. Thus, all that is needed is a Governor who will approve a civil unions bill that Congress passes.

The Honolulu Star Advisor ran an article yesterday about Civil Unions and their impact in the election this fall.
Former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie is sending the message to gay activists that they could have to wait four years or longer for civil unions if he is not elected governor.
Abercrombie supports a civil unions bill vetoed by Gov. Linda Lingle that would have given same-sex and heterosexual couples the same rights, benefits and responsibilities as marriage under state law. Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, his opponent in the September primary, opposes civil unions. Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, the leading Republican candidate, is also against civil unions.
          "It's quite clear that the other two candidates have no intention of                      moving forward on civil unions legislation," Abercrombie said last week.
All three leading candidates for governor have minimized the potential impact of the civil unions debate on the elections, believing instead that issues such as economic recovery, education and sustainability will dominate for voters. But civil unions brought more people to the state Legislature this year than any other issue, including teacher furloughs, and are a priority for many politically active progressives and religious conservatives who are organizing for the elections.
Though the Governor candidates do not think that Civil Unions will be an issue, and that Hawaii voters will be more concerned about the economy and other fiscal matters, others disagree...

Jo-Ann Adams, chairwoman of the party's gay caucus, said she believes civil unions will be a significant political issue, particularly in the November general election. She said many gay activists will back Abercrombie in the primary and, if he were to lose to Hannemann, would shift focus in November to electing a veto-proof majority for civil unions in the state House and Senate...Francis Oda, chairman of the Hawaii Family Forum, which opposes civil unions, also thinks voters will make civil unions an important issue. "It will make a difference, I think," he said. "Many people participated in the entire process -- I'm talking about people on both sides of the issue -- and they are not going to all of sudden just not consider it significant at the polls.
Though the Democratic Primary between Hannemann and Abercrombie is not until this September, polls show that Abercrombie has a comfortable lead against his Republican challenges. This is good news for all of us, for though we eventally want marriage equality; in states like Hawaii, with Constitutional Amendments banning marriage equality, Civil Unions are the next best thing.

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