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On Tuesday, July 6, Governor Linda Lingle of Hawaii vetoed a state measure that would have provided same sex and unwed opposite sex couples the same rights as married heterosexual couples. Although the Governor's personal feelings are in opposition to extending the rights of marriage to same sex couples, she told those awaiting her decision that she wanted to put the matter to the vote of the people.
According to Time, the bill would have extended the same rights, benefits and responsibilities of spouses in a marriage to partners in a civil union. All couples over the age of 18 would have been allowed to enter into a civil union if they were not related and not already married. As discussed in a prior post, the measure was thought to be dead, but passed late in the legislative session which ended in April of this year.
Hawaii has been dealing with the issue of same sex civil unions since 1993, when the Hawaii Supreme Court found the state's refusal to grant marriage licenses to same sex couples to be discrimination. An amendment to the Hawaii state Constitution followed, which allowed the legislature to ban same sex marriage, but did not address the topic of same sex unions -- until now.
Time reports that on announcing her veto, Governor Linda Lingle said, "My personal opinion is not the basis for my decision ... Neither is my veto based on my religious beliefs ... I am vetoing this bill because I have become convinced that this issue is of such of societal importance that it deserves to be decided by all the people in Hawaii."
Not everyone agreed with the governor's statements. "I strongly disagreed with the governor ... I think she acted out of political expediency rather than the [bill's] merits," said state Representative Blake Oshiro. It will be up to the next legislature to decide if a new bill should be introduced or a measure should go before the voters as Governor Lingle wants, noted Oshiro.
Five states and the District of Columbia currently issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. New Jersey allows same sex civil unions.