Hawaii lawmaker returns to court to challenge same-sex marriage law

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, center, with legislators and supporters in Honolulu after he signed a bill legalizing gay marriage in Hawaii.
(Craig T. Kojima / Associated Press)

As Hawaii prepares for its same-sex marriage law to go into effect Monday, a state lawmaker has filed a new motion in state court trying to invalidate the gay marriage legislation.

Hawaii Rep. Bob McDermott argues that the court needs to rule whether the new law, which was passed by the Legislature two weeks ago, conflicts with a 1998 state constitutional amendment that gave the Legislature the power to limit marriage to between a man and a woman.

“This is a serious issue, and we have case law and precedent on our side,” McDermott said in a statement Wednesday, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “We shall fully litigate this through the appeals process.”

A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Jan. 13, according to court records.


Hawaii became the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage on Nov. 13 when Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a bill into law that will allow gay weddings as soon as Dec. 2. Since then, Illinois became the 16th state to legalize gay marriage.

McDermott’s motion comes after Hawaii Circuit Court Judge Karl Sakamoto denied a request on Nov. 14 for a temporary restraining order to delay implementation of the law.

“The court battle is not over,” McDermott wrote on his Facebook page last week. “Please support our effort to protect the 1998 decision of Hawaii’s people in favor of the protection of traditional marriage. Don’t let Gov. Abercrombie rewrite history and the meaning of the constitutional amendment.”

Hawaii voters approved the constitutional amendment in 1998, which states, “The Legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples.” The ballot measure passed with a nearly 70% majority.


The plaintiffs’ attorney, Jack Dwyer, had argued to Sakamoto that voters thought they were defining marriage as between a man and a woman when they approved the amendment. The challenge also cites a 1994 Hawaii law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

Hawaii Atty. Gen. David Louie argued that the amendment only gave the Legislature the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples, if it chose to do so.

“After all the legal complexity of the court’s analysis, the court will conclude that same-sex marriage in Hawaii is legal,” Sakamoto said in issuing his ruling.

Hawaii state lawmakers approved a same-sex marriage bill after Abercrombie called a special session of the Legislature to consider gay marriage legislation.


“Finally, today now all those who have been invisible will be visible to themselves and the whole world,” Abercrombie said before he sat down and signed the bill.


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