Yesterday, during the announcement that she was vetoing Hawaii’s civil unions legislation, Governor Lingle stated that she’d like to see voters decide whether same-sex couples can have basic rights. That engendered a strong reaction from people who actually understand that civil rights shouldn’t be decided by a public vote. From the Honolulu Star-Advertiser:
More disturbing for advocates, however, was the idea of putting equal rights to a popular vote. Many asked whether a majority of voters in the South during the 1950s and 1960s would have supported civil rights for blacks.
“It’s beyond problematic,” said Steven Levinson, a retired associate justice of the state Supreme Court, whose daughter is a lesbian. “By definition, civil rights can’t be defined by the majority. That’s why we have a Bill of Rights, both at the federal and the state level. By their very nature, individual liberties are intended to be counter-majoritarian.”
Levinson authored the landmark 1993 ruling that held that it was discriminatory for the state not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The ruling set off a debate over same-sex marriage that culminated with the 1998 vote that gave lawmakers the authority to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
“It seems like she is taking us back 100 years if we are going to decide civil-rights issues by majority rule,” said state Sen. Les Ihara Jr. (D, Kapahulu-Kaimuki-Palolo), who believes lawmakers will try to move the bill again next year.
He said he doubts lawmakers would put the question on the ballot in 2012.
“I would have hoped for a better answer, more solid. It seemed hollow,” Ihara said. “I think she intervened in the march of history toward equality.”
One wonders how Lingle would feel if her right to marry and divorce (she’s done both, twice) was put to a public vote.
Lingle’s veto insured her legacy as a hater and a homophobe. But, as Mike Signorile tweeted last night, it “will be handsomely rewarded by national GOP. Is she looking to replace Michael Steele?”