Do you want the good or the bad news first? This week, I have both from the marriage equality movement.
The Bad News:
Many families in Hawaii are still denied the protections and benefits of civil unions, such as the right to visit loved ones in the hospital and obtain their medical records. After dragging out her decision as long as possible, Hawaii Governor, Linda Lingle, vetoed HB 444, a pro-civil unions bill, on July 6th. Lingle explained in her veto statement:
“I am vetoing this bill because I have become convinced that this issue is of such significant societal importance that it deserves to be decided directly by all the people of Hawaii.”
“… basic rights for any Americans are not supposed to be put up to a vote”
Wolfson went on to explain that Hawaiians did vote in 1998 when they approved constitutional Amendment 2 allowing the legislature to regulate the definition of marriage. HB 444 was passed by the state legislature in April of 2010 allowing civil unions for both same-sex and gay and lesbian couples. Lingle was even presented with thousands of letters, postcards and petition signatures supporting civil unions. Lingle, ignoring the collective voice in support of civil unions, vetoed HB 444, so that the people of Hawaii could have the chance to voice their opinion?
There is still hope for equality in Hawaii however. The American Civil Liberties Union along with other pro-civil rights groups are planning to file a suit in state court. They are hoping that the judge will find that Hawaii’s constitution provides the protection of civil unions to same-sex couples.
The Good News:
On July 8th, a federal court judge in Massachusetts ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional in two separate cases. DOMA is a federal act banning marriage equality. In Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Health and Human Services, Judge Taro ruled that Section 3 of DOMA, which states that “…the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife,” is a violation of the 10th Amendment, which protects states’ rights. In the second case, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, Taro ruled that Section 3 of DOMA violated the equal protection provided by due process under the 5th Amendment. These rulings challenge the discriminatory act, DOMA, and offer hope that the decisions made in Massachusetts will spread across the country, bringing an end to this unjust law.
As Hawaii recovers from Lingle’s veto decision, let’s hope that Judge Taro’s rulings inspire a change in America, and that in the weeks to come, I will have more good news to share.