July 7th, 2010
I do not believe that Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle is a bigot. I have not witnessed overt hostility towards gay Hawaiians or a pattern of anti-gay activism on her part. I think that she perceives herself as respectful and that she genuinely did feel some measure of compassion for the gay men and women who met with her on this issue.
However, one need not personally be a bigot to be motivated by disreputable intentions. And the argument that eventually compelled Lingle to veto this legislation was based in a sense of entitlement and superiority, the same emotion that drives racism, sexism, and other forms of bigoted expression.
From the text of Lingle’s veto speech:
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.
After listening to those both for and against HB 444 I have gained a new appreciation for just how deeply people of all ages and backgrounds feel on this matter, and how significantly they believe the issue will affect their lives.
Few could be unmoved by the poignant story told to me in my office by a young, Big Island man who recounted the journey he had taken to bring himself to tell his very traditional parents that he was gay. I was similarly touched by the mother who in the same office expressed anguish at the prospect of the public schools teaching her children that a same gender marriage was equivalent to their mother and father’s marriage.
But in the end, it wasn’t the persuasiveness of public debates, the soundness of legal arguments, or the volume of letters and emails that convinced me to reach this decision. It was the depth of emotion felt by those on both sides of the issue that revealed to me how fundamental the institution of marriage is to our community.
Lingle’s examples – those which best illustrated the “depth of emotion” which she observed – consisted of two individual stories.
In the first, Lingle ignored entirely the real concerns and needs of same-sex couples. She dismissed rights, obligations, and benefits to focus instead on a coming out story. We don’t know if this man was denied hospital visitation or if he paid higher taxes or even if he was part of a couple; we only know that his parents were traditional (with the assumption that all traditional parents are, by default, homophobic).
That is how Lingle characterized the entire quest for couples equality: the emotional difficulty of coming out.
Her second example was more accurate; it correctly expressed the motivations of those who object to civil equality.
This woman wished for her children to believe in the superiority of heterosexuals. She wished them to believe that heterosexuals are due privileges and benefits solely for being heterosexual. And she opposed any public impressions that would suggest that all citizens of Hawaii are equal. The idea that a school might teach that those same-sex people in a civil union were equivalent to her and her husband brought her anguish.
And this is at the heart of Lingle’s decision. This was the argument which she found compelling. Indeed, it wasn’t even a matter of some religion or other owning the word “marriage” but because she found civil unions to be “essentially marriage by another name.”
In her follow up comments, Lingle clarified that her objection was that HB 444 “has all the same rights, responsibilities, benefits and protections” as marriage. It just didn’t leave heterosexual as adequately “better” than gays and lesbians.
Lingle begs her constituents to recognize that she gave the decision making process the dignity that it deserves. But I am not so generous as to assume dignity or a fair consideration.
Because Governor Linda Lingle, like the woman whose anguish justified Lingle’s veto, wants to keep heterosexuals as privileged, superior, and entitled. And that is a most disreputable motivation.
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Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"
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