Thursday, July 1, 2010

Univ. of Hawaii President Distances Himself From Antigay Letter

The president of the University of Hawaii is joining other business leaders who are distancing themselves from a letter sent to Gov. Linda Lingle urging her to veto a bill that would legalize civil unions.

University system president M.R.C. Greenwood sent a letter to Lingle June 18 stating that she did not agree with the stance of the Hawaii Business Roundtable, which has called for Lingle to veto the bill. Greenwood emphasized the university's own nondiscrimination policies, which were reaffirmed as recently as June 2009.

The university has not issued an official statement decrying the letter, but Greenwood issued a statement in addition to the letter, saying that the board of regents enforces its code of "nondiscrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender identity and expression, age, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, arrest and court records, sexual orientation, or status as a covered veteran. I firmly support this policy of nondiscrimination."

Greenwood also mentioned that she was not one of the members of the roundtable's executive board, which officially submitted the letter. The June 4 plea to the governor says that local business owners would have to bear the burden of covering the costs of benefits and legal exemptions for civil partners.

"It is recommended that a commission be established to develop a recommendation for the state legislature to consider in 2011," the letter reads. "The commission should include representatives from a broad constituency to provide thoughtful input which could result in meaningful legislation that will minimize the potential for legal challenges and long-term problems."

Gary Kai, executive director of the Hawaii Business Roundtable, told The Advocate on Tuesday that the letter reflects only the position of the 10 executive board members and not that of the 48 nonexecutive members, including Greenwood.

"Each member has to make their own decision as to what their stance is on the bill," he said. "They're perfectly free to do so."

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