Statement on Signing a Bill Amending the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act
I am signing H.J. Res. 17, a joint resolution that gives the United States consent to a number of amendments to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act that were adopted by the State of Hawaii between August 21, 1959, and June 30, 1985. This consent is necessary because section 4 of the Act to Provide for the Admission of Hawaii into the Union, Public Law 86-3, 73 Stat. 4 (1959), requires that amendments to the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act be approved by the National Government. I am signing this joint resolution because I believe, as the Department of the Interior testified when the resolution was pending, that the matters with which the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act is concerned should be left entirely to the State of Hawaii. The administration of the public lands in question can be competently handled by the State government.
I also wish to express another concern. Because the act employs an express racial classification in providing that certain public lands may be leased only to persons having "not less than one-half of the blood of the races inhabiting the Hawaiian Islands previous to 1778," the continued application of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, 1920, Haw. Rev. Stat. 201 et seq. (1976), raises serious equal protection questions. These difficulties are exacerbated by the amendment that reduces the native-blood requirement to one-quarter, thereby casting additional doubt on the original justification for the classification. While I am signing this resolution because it substantially defers to the State's judgment, I urge that the Congress amend section 4 of the Act to Provide for the Admission of Hawaii into the Union so that in the future the State of Hawaii may amend the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act without the consent of the United States and give further consideration to the justification for the troubling racial classification.
Note: H.J. Res. 17, approved October 27, was assigned Public Law No. 99-557.
Ronald Reagan, Statement on Signing a Bill Amending the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/254307