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The Schmooze

Governor of Hawaii Consults Rabbis on Civil Unions

“Why don’t you just talk to the rabbi?”

Jewish Republican governor of Hawaii Linda Lingle seems to be heeding this advice — a favorite of my mother’s. A bill legalizing civil unions in Hawaii is on her desk, and her deadline for deciding whether to veto it is drawing near.

According to an article by the Associated Press, Lingle earlier this month said Hawaii’s small Jewish community was divided on the issue, and invited rabbis Itchel Krasnjansky (Orthodox) and Peter Schaktman (Reform) to talk to her about their divergent opinions.

The Hawaii Supreme Court’s 1993 decision in favor of gay marriage led to significant backlash, including passage of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 and Hawaii’s own ban on gay marriage in 1998. The current bill — which would legalize civil unions only — does not revive the marriage issue or overturn any previous legislation.

Krasnjansky, the director of Chabad of Hawaii, said that the Torah shows that homosexuality “is not something that should be condoned or should be legalized.” Schaktman, the leader of Honolulu’s Temple Emanu-El, disagreed, saying civil unions were a matter of law, not religion.

The debate creates a new twist on an old adage: three Jews, two opinions, and only one governor with veto power.

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