Last week the Hawaii state senate approved legislation, already passed by the other legislative chamber, to allow gay marriage in the state. Governor Neil Abercrombie immediately signed the measure. This was a huge victory for the LGBT community. But it was a financial drain on the taxpayers of Hawaii. And it was a set-back for the democratic process.
I am not going to argue the merits of the legislation at this time, but just discuss the losers. I think the win for the LGBT political machine is obvious and needs no commentary. The state will begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples on December 2.
The taxpayers lost a lot here. A special legislative session was called just to tackle this issue. Here in Nevada and a few other states, legislative sessions are held only every two years, so it might be reasonable to call a special session for some issues that need immediate attention. But Hawaii’s legislature meets every year; this bill could have been introduced in a few months. As the special session began the estimated cost was about $25,000. The Hawaii Convention Center in Waikiki was rented for public testimony and the invitation-only victory party when the governor signed the legislation into law. Of course, legislators are paid for working outside regular legislative sessions. How many state services or jobs will be cut because so much was spent on a special interest group that could not wait for the regular legislative process?
This issue had already been “decided” by a vote of the people over two decades ago. The majority of voters indicated their desire to continue the traditional one man-one woman definition of marriage. This time sentiment remained the same. One rally attracted tens of thousands of people asking the state senate to vote against the bill. There were hours of public testimony; only about 10% of the speakers supported the legislation. Clearly the final 19-4 senate vote did not reflect the will of the citizens of Hawaii.
Not too long ago, while meeting with the public, a Nevada state legislator said if his constituents were in favor of slavery, he would have to vote for it. He got a lot of flack for that from people who zeroed in on the example rather than the principle he expressed. He probably made a poor choice of analogy, but I clearly understood what he was trying to communicate: he is elected to represent the views of the majority of his constituents on any matter. Americans do not vote for a candidate to go to the state capital or DC to vote only their opinion on legislation. I hope the people of Hawaii will remember this when their current legislators come up for re-election.