The Irony Of Lingle’s Veto

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - July 14, 2010
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Did anyone really expect her to do anything else?

Oh, I know. A few did. Even the brilliant Star-Advertiser columnist Lee Cataluna speculated that Gov. Linda Lingle harbored a “live-and-let-live” view of the world. And though I knew better, as I watched her news conference I felt my heart beating faster in hope that maybe, just maybe, she would let HB444 become law.

But Lingle’s live-and-let-live attitude appears to have died sometime between the commencement of her political career on the Maui County Council in 1980 and her nominating speech for Sarah Palin at the 2008 Republican National Convention.

It expired from what Kevin Phillips has called the “Southernization” of the Republican Party. Southern Baptists, evangelicals, fundamentalists plus the morally toxic Roman Catholic Church of Pope Benedict now constitute the GOP’s base.

Ironic as it may be - Lingle is Jewish - she appreciates that. As Republican Party chairwoman from 1999 to 2002, she saw Republican numbers grow in the Legislature.


Many among the new GOP acolytes at the Capitol were evangelical Christians, a surprising number of them pastors of various big-box churches. They’d owed their victories to the wave of fundamentalist revulsion at the Hawaii Supreme Court’s decision in Baehr v. Lewin (1993). In that decision, the court decided, on a three-two vote, that the prohibition against same-sex couples marrying was discriminatory and thus unconstitutional.

But in her veto message of HB444 last week, Lingle discounted any political calculation in her decision. That’s difficult to accept. Both Duke Aiona and his probable running mate, House Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan, oppose civil unions. Both have been Lingle loyalists throughout her eight years in office, and she wasn’t about to undermine them by allowing HB444 to become law.

So Lingle threw it to the voters: “A vote by all the people of Hawaii is the best and fairest way to address an issue that elicits such deeply felt emotion.”

That’s nonsense.

Aristotle knew the people were not the fairest judges of the rights of minorities. So too did the English political philosopher John Stuart Mill and the father of the American Constitution, James Madison.

And Alexis de Tocqueville, the most insightful student of American democracy we’ve ever known, warned repeatedly against “the tyranny of the majority.” My guess is that had Lingle spoken to her fine attorney general Mark Bennett, he might have warned against allowing a majority vote of the people to decide the rights of a gay and lesbian minority.

It required a four-year-long Civil War, the bloodiest in our history, to bring an end to Negro slavery in 1865. A vote of the people would not have done it.


It required an executive order from a border state president named Harry Truman to integrate the United States military, in 1949. A vote of neither the active military nor the people at large would have accomplished it.

And it took the vote of both houses of the United States Congress and the signature of a president born and reared in one of the 11 states of the Confederacy, Lyndon Johnson, to pass the great Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965 that effectively ended slavery. In all likelihood, a vote of the people wouldn’t have approved either bill.

In the hundred years between the end of the Civil War and the Civil Rights Acts of the mid-‘60s, minority blacks had been segregated, lynched, denied the vote, impoverished and routinely discriminated against while majorities looked the other way.

That’s as good a definition of “the tyranny of the majority” that I know of, but it didn’t seem to bother the first woman governor of the state of Hawaii. She’ll count on “a vote by all the people of Hawaii.”

In HB444, significant majorities in both houses of the Hawaii State Legislature said that committed couples of the same gender should enjoy the rights and responsibilities of a civil union, i.e., all the rights of marriage without the name.

The governor should have signed the bill - or allowed it to become law without her signature.

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