Thursday, May 07, 2009


Civil unions bill assassinated it seems

by Larry Geller

On a roll-call vote, an amendment was passed, killing the bill for this session, if I understand things correctly. It can be taken up in an interim session. The popular wisdom is that a civil unions bill will not pass next year, an election year.

But the Internet has a long memory, and the rest of the nation is leaving Hawaii in the dust on civil rights. Maybe the election will reflect what the people expected from their senators but didn’t get.

I’ll post the votes later.

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I haven't followed the issue that closely, but I've heard from various sources that the popular vote was against CU. Assuming this is true and the majority of the voting public do not want it, the elected officials would be executing their duty in representing the will of the people by rejecting CU.

This issue should be on a state-wide ballot. Let the will of the people decide...not any small body of elected officials.

If Hawaii, as a majority, doesn't want CU then Hawaii will not get CU.

Am I wrong here?

Hawaii briefly appears out of the shadows of historical irrelevance before returning back into the darkness. Of course, voters generally don't care about civil unions and apparently all of the senators know it.

if i were the civil unions people, i would target every senator who voted for the amendment who live in conservative districts and just say what they did: he voted FOR civil unions. and let him sweat why he had to vote for it, to be against it.

reminds me of that donovan song, "first there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is. oh juanita, i call your name."

I am not sure about the majority opinion. I've heard the opposite also. Besides, if the will of the people, taken by a vote at a particular moment, were to decide everything, blacks and women would possibly still not have the vote, and whatever enemy the newspapers drummed up at the moment we would be at war with. In fact, in the South, there would still be slavery, no doubt...

There are two responses to the claim "a majority of people oppose civil unions." First, that does not appear to be factually correct. The QMark poll taken a couple of months ago found 29% of Hawaii residents supported full marriage equality for BOTH same and opposite sex couples. An additional 29% supported giving same sex couples the same rights as marriage, but without calling it "marriage." That's 58% supporting either CUs or Same Sex Marriage!

The redshirt mob has been choreographed by skilled political strategists to create the impression they speak for the "masses" of Hawaii's people. They don't. A telltale clue should have been how they are unable to speak about the matter without bringing in "hellfire and damnation." These people represent the views of 20% of our people, if that.

The relationship of minority rights and majoritarian acceptance is complicated. When the Constitution of the US was written, it said "All Men are Created Equal," but that did not include women, black men, Native Americans, children or even white "men" who lacked property.

We are at a point when a majority of Hawaii residents are willing to recognize the right of gay and lesbians to have the same legal rights and responsibilities for their committed longterm relationships as are currently granted to opposite sex couples. We are not yet at a point where most people are willing to call gay relationships "marriage." But that will come sson enough.

Reactionaries have an interest in portraying Hawaii's people as backward thinking. But too many "liberals" buy into the same outlook and view "the People" as ignorant. I think that's a mistake and most of Hawaii's people are more tolerant than the Right and the politicians give them credit for. When "liberal" Democratic senator's quake in fear of the anticipated wrath of a horde of reactionary voters, maybe they need to get out into the community more to get a firsthand experience of how ordinary people think.

But it is also the responsibility of the CU advocates to share the polling data with the politicians. Important parts of the QMARK data were NOT shared with the politicians, so it is a little hard to blame the legislators for thinking the People are not supportive of Civil Unions.

I think there are two issues here which Anonymous gets wrong. A strong majority and growing support civil unions in Hawai'i based upon longitudinal data over the last decade.

But the key here is "support". Will civil unions be the deciding factor for voters in supporting or not supporting a particular candidate for office? 25-30% of people in Hawai'i care about civil rights and social justice on any given issue. I don't know if all of them vote. But as you can see, that is less than 50% + 1.

Every senator knows this and so the leadership used this general apathy to assert their control over the chamber, the republicans used it to shore up their rank-and-file supporters, and the rest supported keeping it alive for a handful of other reasons -- all but a few claiming their were doing the same thing: supporting civil unions.

Thanks for your comments. I just got back to my computer after spending the day over at the Capitol. I did want to thank some of the senators who supported the recall yesterday, though I didn't get to all of them.

More later. Gotta do some things first before blogging.

For outsiders- After the Supreme Court of HI mandated same gender marriage, a 1998 vote on a constitutional amendment allowed the legislature to define marriage as between a man and woman, which they did. The vote had nothing to do with civil unions which the constitution apparently still requires although no one has brought that case to the SCOHI, awaiting passage of this bill. The only scientific poll conducted this year showed about ¾ favor civil unions. Hawaii has neither statewide initiative and referendum nor constitutional amendment by petition.

Andy, I think your comment misses the point between people who are asked if they support or oppose the concept of civil unions (which was somewhere closer to 80% I believe) and how strong that support is in terms of political pressure at the ballot box. If you look at every statewide constitutional amendment that have eroded civil liberties over the last 12 years, they show a core of 20-30% of voters voting to uphold civil liberties and the rest voting blank or "yes" to strip whatever civil right in our bill of rights offends the right-wing fringe in this state.

Unless I'm mistaken, that means that roughly 20 to 30% of the statewide electorate shows an interest in civil liberties in general. That is not a strong showing to senators. The QMark data does help the civil union people because it tells Senators, if you support us, this will not be a repeat of 1996 when Donna Ikeda and Ray Graulty were flushed out of the Senate when violent anti-gay vitriol was still in vogue.

But that is not a threat or a mandate, you'll be voted out of office if you don't. The Senate leadership understood the difference and exploited it -- all the way everyone except Gabbard, Hemmings, Sakamoto (who replaced Graulty in 96), and Slom (who replaced Ikeda in 96) saying they did what they did to support civil unions.

My point was that it seems a vast majority (that 80%) of people distinguish between marriage and civil unions despite the red-shirts’ attempts to conflate them and say they are the same.

We gave them the word marriage in ‘98 (unfortunately)- that’s all most voters asked for according to polls at the time saying they have nothing against equal rights, just don’t call it marriage. The red shirts try to misrepresent the vote as being more than just protection of the word marriage. I registered hundreds of voters that year as part of the wiki-wiki roadside registration (working for the state through League of Woman voters) and that was what 9 out of 10 told me.

Nationally everyone understands the difference- news reports have made it clear- so I think people here do too. All (I believe) of the states that have passed constitutional amendments banning same gender marriage have passed civil union laws (or are in the process of finalizing legislation) because their constitutions mandate it no matter what the marriage laws say. That’s why you find the states with laws banning same gender marriage without civil union laws like Iowa being overturned by their state supreme courts.

I think it’s time to file that suit in Hawai`i. I hope civil rights groups move soon to get us into court - the legislative process is too corrupt- they’ve had 10 years and nothing.

Most of the states that have constitutional bans on marriage do not have civil unions. Check the map at the bottom.

It took Blacks 60 years to get from Plessy to Brown and another 10 years legislatively to the civil rights acts-- this was with bad guys that were setting attack dogs and fire hoses on protestors. The expedited process that many of these same-sex marriage rulings are getting is surprisingly fast from a juridical point of view and from a grassroots organizing move. I suspect all of this will become moot when someone from the legalized same-sex marriage states begins suing to invalidate DoMA and then sues to challenge one of those state constitutional bans. I don't think our Supremes have the back bone to make the ruling you suggest especially with Levinson retired and the current composition of the court.

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