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Hawaii Governor Vetoes Civil Union Bill: Why Does It Matter?

marriage equality in DC

After postponing her decision to veto or sign into law a number of bills including the Civil Union bill (passed in April in a close vote by the Hawaiian legislature), Governor Linda Lingle (as reported by the New York Times) has said, “I have been open and consistent in my opposition to same-sex marriage, and find that House Bill 444 is essentially same-sex marriage by another

name.”

In another report by the Associated Press, Gov. Lingle's decision is presented through the prism of a state leader who listened to emotional testimony from all sides "for weeks," but also stated clearly that she believes that the issue of civil unions should be decided by voters, not by elected officals. To do so otherwise, she said, would be "a mistake." 

One thing is certain: political leaders around the country are looking for ways to avoid sounding close-minded and prejudiced, while also remaining in step with the party platform or, at least, the "conventional campaign wisdom" of the day. One doesn't have to look far (thank you, Google!) to find examples of similar behavior of other elected officials. Take, for example, Gov. Lynch (NH), who wavered on his decision to legalize same sex marriage last year, or Gov. Schwarzenegger (CA) who repeatedly vetoed same sex marriage bills, saying that the California Supreme Court or the people should decide the matter.

So, why does this matter? And, why, on a site that focuses primarily on gay wedding tips and resources, are we talking politics?

PASSING THE BUCK. The increasing pattern we see is one of legislators looking to avoid

controversy while finding a way to pass the buck. And, we would argue, this is happening both literally and figuratively.

We founded our business in 1999 because same sex couples were having ceremonies and needed resources. And, in our many years in this business, we've seen that couples are continuing to have ceremonies, whether one's local jurisdiction recognizes it or not. In areas where gay marriage has become legal, spikes in revenues have been observed and arguments of economic impact have been made, in particular, by the Williams Institute.

EARLY BIRD GETS THE WORM. The mainstream wedding market is already moving toward a more inclusive stance toward gay and lesbian weddings. We field countless calls for advice (from couples and vendors alike) and (from other wedding resources) for interest in our content. And, we believe that the early adapters — those states which embrace same sex marriage early — stand to gain the most economically from the decision to do so.

So, those states, like Hawaii, which take a political stance likely to fall from vogue in the not-so-distant future, will have missed out on the chance not only to have done the "right" thing by loving couples who embrace marriage, but will also have missed a chance to profit just that much more from the energy and excitement of the many couples who seek destinations (from the currently limited list) for legal nuptials.

BECOME A LEADER FOR MARRIAGE.  The great irony in all of the shallow debates about whether or not two persons of the same gender should be "allowed" to marry and how this dismantles "traditional marriage," is that marriage "preservationists" are chasing a red herring. Divorce amongst heterosexuals is at an all time high and, further eroding the "institution of marriage," are attitudes of some heterosexuals who have access to marriage rights, but are taking a "why bother?" stance (a la Newsweek's I Don't: The case against marriage) or, according to some in the African-American community, find themselves swimming upstream culturally (a la The Post's Marriage Is For White People).

THE BOTTOM LINE. If we value the notion that two people can fall in love and choose to remain monogomous, it shouldn't matter if those two persons are of the same gender. Our society has built a strong emotional and economic tradition for a family unit as established around the tradition of two persons who choose to exchange vows of commitment.

The legal rights afforded by that institution should be extended to those who seek to enter into and uphold the traditional notions of marriage, even if the couple doesn't "look" so traditional.

Any elected official knows that decisions like civil rights for a minority group won't be enacted by the majority. It's in matters like these that we depend on our leaders to set a course of justice for all of us.

AND IN CONCLUSION… It would seem that the institution of marriage would benefit greatly by welcoming with open arms those who enthusiastically embrace and seek membership in its ranks, just as those states which take an early role in embracing marriage equality stand to gain economically and in reputation as history is written.

To quote our company founder (my straight mom, Gretchen Hamm) who has taken a page from retired Sen. Chuck Robb (VA), "Marriage equality is not a matter of "if," it's a matter of "when." Wouldn't you rather be on the right side of history?"

Wedding innovator Kathryn Hamm (@madebykathryn) is co-author of The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography (Amphoto Books, 2014), an Education Expert for WeddingWire and Publisher of GayWeddings.com