by Andrew Walden
When it comes to HB 444--Gay Civil Unions—Honolulu Mayor and all-but-declared gubernatorial candidate Mufi Hannemann has consistently refused to stand in opposition.
Last September, Herb Sample of the Associated Press asked Hannemann’s campaign for a comment on HB444 and other hot-button social issues. This is what he got:
Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who earlier this year raised almost $660,000 for an expected gubernatorial campaign in 2010, refused Monday to disclose his positions on same-gender civil unions, gay marriage and abortion rights.
Hannemann campaign spokeswoman Elisa Yadao was asked to provide the mayor's positions on the three hot-button issues. She responded in an e-mail: "As Mufi is not an official candidate, we are not participating in stories featuring candidates who have announced their intention to run for governor."
"That's a pretty lame defense," said University of Hawaii political scientist Dan Boylan.
"If people are giving money to him on the possibility that he may be running for governor next year, he's got a responsibility to speak to the issues that are definitely going to be there, just as they were in a very hot fashion just this last (legislative) session," Boylan added.
Hannemann's refusal to state his positions contrasts with three other all-but-official gubernatorial candidates: U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who is seeking the Democratic nomination, and Republican contenders Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona and lawyer John Carroll.
During the Legislature's contentious debate last spring over a measure allowing same-gender couples to enter into civil unions, Abercrombie submitted testimony supporting the bill. Carroll submitted one in opposition, and Aiona testified against it before a state House committee.
As with many stories which are damaging to local Democrats, Sample’s AP story, “Hannemann won't divulge positions on hot issues” was ignored by most Hawaii news outlets. Hawai`i Free Press found it 5,000 miles away on the website of “Delaware Online.” But it did draw the attention of Hawaii Republicans. State GOP Chair Jonah Kaauwai issued a statement ridiculing Hannemann:
“Given the same opportunity to define his moral beliefs, (Hannemann) flat out played politics and dodged the question. When a candidate is willing to fund-raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to fuel his campaign for governor, he should at least be willing to let voters know here he stands on the most contentious issues of our time. He refused. What kind of leadership is that?”
Apparently Kaauwai’s question got under Mufi’s skin, because four months later, speaking to thousands of HB444 opponents rallying at the Hawaii State Capitol January 17, Hannemann angrily denounced, “attempts to distort my message in support of traditional marriage....” Citing his record on the Honolulu County Council during the 1990s, Hannemann asserted:
“…the importance of marriage between a man and a woman was with me when I was very young. And it stays with me today. And that’s important to understand that. People who want to come up and try to define what you believe in…you always appreciate lawmakers who are consistent. I held that view then. I hold that view today.”
The akamai reader will note that Hannemann said nothing about civil unions.
But in spite of the outpouring of opposition, the Democrat-controlled Hawaii State House April 30 voted 31-20 to approve HB444 and send it to Governor Lingle who is now considering whether to sign or veto the measure. Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and Senator Gary Hoosier—as well as some local divorce attorneys--have argued that passage of gay civil unions will lead to litigation creating gay marriage—just as it did when a similar bill passed in Connecticut. Republican Gubernatorial candidate Duke Aiona issued a statement titled: “This bill should not be allowed to become law.” Democrat Gubernatorial candidate Neil Abercrombie reiterated his support of HB444.
And Mufi? The Star-Bulletin May 2 questioned Hannemann about his position and got an answer almost identical to the one given to the AP back in September:
Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, an all-but-announced candidate for governor, is against same-sex marriage but has declined to express an opinion on the civil unions bill now before Lingle.
"I draw the line when it comes to marriages," Hannemann said. "I have always thought it should be between a man and a woman."
Hannemann has consistently refused to oppose gay civil unions. Mufi’s statement “I draw the line at marriage” implies that civil unions are acceptable.
Perhaps this is what Hannemann meant when he said, “You always appreciate lawmakers who are consistent. I held that view then. I hold that view today.”
Of course, as Hanabusa, Hoosier, and others have explained, the distinction between gay civil unions and gay marriage may just be one lawsuit away from being obliterated by the same Hawaii Judiciary which in 1993 invented the first legal gay marriage in the entire history of the human race.
Hannemann won't divulge positions on hot issues
Rallies on Oahu, Maui, Kauai: 15,000 against Gay Civil Unions
Aiona on HB444: “This bill should not be allowed to become law”
Abercrombie: Gay Rights Trump Will of the People
Hooser, Hanabusa predict HB444 will bring gay marriage back before Courts
The Overhauling of Straight America