by Andrew Walden
After months of tortured evasions, Mufi Hannemann July 16 finally came out of the closet and announced that if he were Governor, he "guesses" he would "probably" have vetoed HB444 gay civil unions. The Star-Advertiser July 17 reported:
Hannemann said that if he were to be elected governor in November, he would work with state lawmakers on expanding the state's reciprocal beneficiaries law so gay couples could have additional benefits. But he said he would use his veto power if lawmakers sent him an identical civil unions bill.
"If that bill continues to be tantamount to marriage -- between a man and a man or a woman and a woman -- I could not sign it," he said at a meeting with Star-Advertiser editors and reporters. "I would not sign it."
Pressed on exactly what he would have done had the bill reached his desk as governor, he said, "I guess I probably would have vetoed it."
Until yesterday Hannemann had declined to say how he would have handled the civil unions bill.
For just a moment, it appeared as if Hannemann had sort of taken a position--after refusals dating back to September, 2009. But in yesterday’s Democrat Gubernatorial debate, Hannemann again reverted to his old waffly ways refusing to take any firm stance for or against HB444.
Here is the story:
On the issue of civil unions, Abercrombie said he would work to pass the measure. Hannemann did not say whether he would veto or sign such a bill.
Steve Petranik, editor of Hawaii Business magazine, who moderated the forum, asked Hannemann whether his administration would take an active role in civil unions if it came up at the state Legislature next year, and whether he would sign or veto a civil-unions bill.
Hannemann said he wanted to end discrimination and would work to extend benefits to gay couples. He said he believes marriage is sacrosanct and should be between a man and a woman.
The former mayor has said previously that he, like Gov. Linda Lingle, would have vetoed a civil-unions bill passed this year by the Legislature because he considered it the same as marriage under state law.
Abercrombie, who favors civil unions and has said he would sign the bill into law, chided Hannemann for not directly answering. Asked the same questions by Petranik, Abercrombie simply responded, "Yes."
My favorite part however, came about halfway through the debate. An audience member brought up the controversial civil unions legislation and asked, “If you become governor and a bill similar to HB 444 passed your desk, would you sign it or veto it?” You might recall, Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed the bill last month, which would have allowed homosexual couples to enter into a civil union and given them more rights under the state law.
It was Hannemann’s turn to answer first. He beat around the bush, starting off by saying that he would meet with folks on both sides of the issue before making his decision (as Lingle also did). He then brought up President Obama and echoed his stance by saying that he is against discrimination in our community. But he also believes that marriage should be between a man and woman. That, to me, is plain discrimination.
Then it was Abercrombie’s turn. His response was, “yes.” Yes, he would sign a civil unions bill.
It was refreshing to hear a politician actually answer a question. Not skirt the issue, or answer ambiguously, but a straightforward “Yes, I support this,” or “No, I don’t support this.”
The moderator asked Hannemann whether his administration would support or oppose any state legislation relating to legalizing civil unions, and whether he would sign or veto such a law. Initially skirting the issue by talking about the need for equity in benefits, which he said he would work to make happen, Hannemann finally came back to the issue.
"I have to be clear, my position has always been, marriage is sacrosanct between a man and a woman, and I will hold to that," Hannemann said.
Seemingly amused by Hannemann's response, Abercrombie asked for the question again, then answered with just the word yes, twice, indicating he would support civil union legislation and he would sign such a bill into law.