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July 16, 2010 / lezebelinchief

What Hawaii’s Civil Union Defeat Really Means

Earlier this month Hawaii’s Governor, Linda Lingle, vetoed a civil union bill granting same-sex couples in Hawaii similar rights as heterosexual married couples. This turn of events was a bit surprising, considering Lingle waited until the last minute to exercise her veto, and because Hawaii was the first state in the United States to offer same-sex couples any kind of State recognition (Hawaii enacted the Reciprocal Beneficiary Registration in 1997). She reasoned that House Bill 444 was “essentially marriage by another name,” and that the people of Hawaii should be given the opportunity to vote on such an important social issue.

Putting aside the asinine logic of placing the oppressive majority in charge of the rights of the oppressed minority, Lingle’s statement concerning marriage is perhaps the most upsetting part of this ordeal. Let me get this straight—we can’t have marriage, because that’s a religious institution, but we can’t have civil unions because they look like marriage? Time and again, same-sex marriage detractors have stated that they believe homosexuals should be allowed some form of relationship recognition, so long as it’s not called “marriage.” This makes Lingle’s decision all the more troublesome. If civil unions are too close to “the real thing,” then what is it we deserve?

This past fall I worked on the Approve 71 campaign here in Washington State. Referendum 71 was a measure that would expand domestic partnerships to resemble marriage as closely as possible; it was even nicknamed the “Everything But Marriage Bill”. When it came time to campaign, this name proved to be quite the struggle to overcome. Fortunately, Referendum 71 passed, but it was the first time in United States history that a comprehensive recognition of same-sex couples was approved by voters. I worry this splitting of hairs in Hawaii will be too difficult to overcome. Where is the line drawn between marriage and a relationship that looks like marriage? And who is in charge of determining that difference? I’m afraid I’m not going to like the answers to these questions.

So where does that leave us? Well, this past week we’ve seen some really awesome progress on the equality front. First, a federal district court judge in Boston ruled that sections of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) are unconstitutional, particularly those that infringe upon individual state’s rights. This in and of itself does not overturn DOMA, but it does open the door for new strides towards doing just that. Also, today the DC Court of Appeals struck down an attempt by anti-equality groups to put a same-sex marriage ban on the November ballot, which would have invalidated the recent legalization of same-sex marriage. And, in the best news of the week, Argentina legalized same-sex marriage, despite an incredible amount of opposition from the Catholic Church.

Certainly we have a long way to go on the road to equality, but history is on our side. Let’s hope Hawaii, and the rest of the US, stands on the side of love come November.

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