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Hawaii judge says he is open to hearing case on same-sex marriage

A judge has said he is open to hearing a case about the constitutional validity of any law allowing same-sex marriage in Hawaii, if a measure is passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor.

A group opposing same-sex marriage had sought a temporary restraining order to block the governor from signing any measure passed by the Legislature, said attorney Jack Dwyer, who represents the group.

But Circuit Court Judge Karl Sakamoto ruled Thursday that action would be premature, Dwyer said.

However, the judge indicated "we can come back and he would clear his calendar" to hear the substance of the case, Dwyer said in a telephone interview.

Hawaii and Illinois are the latest states to consider legalizing same-sex marriage.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has announced he will sign a same-sex marriage bill by the end of the month after it was passed by state lawmakers this week.

Hawaii lawmakers are expected to pass a bill in the next few days, and Gov. Neil Abercrombie has said he will sign it.

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage. The movement grew after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down sections of the federal Defense of Marriage Act in June.

The Hawaii case is different from other efforts to use the courts to legalize same-sex marriage. In effect, the plaintiffs contend that a 1998 constitutional amendment prohibits the Legislature from allowing same-sex marriage, and they want to prevent any government official from issuing a marriage license until the question of constitutionality is decided.

State Atty. Gen. David Louie said the Legislature had the authority to approve same-sex marriage independent of the 1998 constitutional amendment.

"I firmly believe that the Legislature has the constitutional authority to do this, the Legislature has the constitutional power to do this, and that there won't be a problem," Louie told reporters.

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