In a Hawaii Senate debate last week, former Gov. Linda Lingle (R-HI) came under fire for a 2010 move described by LGBT-rights activists as “unwarranted cruelty.” Rep. Mazie Hirono, her Democratic opponent and a supporter of marriage equality, noted that Lingle invited supporters of civil unions to attend what they thought would be a bill-signing ceremony, only to veto the bill.
Lingle, asked about marriage equality, said that she continues to believe marriage should only be between one man and one woman and that she would support putting the question up for a popular vote in the Aloha State. When Hirono reminded viewers of Lingle’s civil unions veto, the former governor said she thought the move was “respectful”:
HIRONO: We all remember when as governor she vetoed the civil unions bill and, in doing so, before she vetoed it, she invited members of the [LGBT] leadership to join her. And they thought that she was going to sign that bill into law. And instead, right in front of them, the very group that had worked so hard to pass this legislation, she vetoed that bill. I thought that was extremely insensitive and disrespectful of their position. Her position, my opponent’s position on marriage equality, is very much in line with national Republicans and is certainly not what the Democrats stand for.
LINGLE: … she gave the impression that I only invited one side in and then went against their point of view… in fact, I had invited both sides in. The passions were running so high, I didn’t feel it was something I should do in my office, or away from the public. And because both sides had spoken extensively on this very important topic, I invited both sides to be with me as I read my statement that day. It was a very difficult decision to make, but one I tried to do in the most respectful way possible.
HIRONO: Well, clearly, to invite the very group that had hoped she was inviting them to sign the bill into law, and instead vetoed it, I think is a very insensitive thing to do. I certainly wouldn’t have done it.
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Donald L. Bentz, executive director of Equality Hawaii, told ThinkProgress in August that Lingle made “an inhumane spectacle.” Activists were told on arrival “you’ll be seated with the media, you are not allowed to react, there will be no questions. If you react in any way, shape or form, you’ll be escorted out of the conference.” Supporters were not even permitted to cry from the disappointment. Lingle made the ThinkProgress Anti-LGBT Senate Candidates Dirty Dozen based on her opposition to hate crimes protections, employment protections, and marriage equality for LGBT Hawaiians.
Lingle’s explanation for this heartless gesture is that because she also invited the anti-LGBT people to see her veto the bill, it was “respectful.” Her successor, Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D), signed a similar civil unions bill into law in 2011.