Hawaii judge refuses to block law permitting same-sex marriage

Hawaii judge refuses to block law permitting same-sex marriage
Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, left, shakes hands with former Sen. Avery Chumley after Abercrombie signed a bill legalizing gay marriage in Hawaii. (Craig Kojima / Associated Press)

A judge refused Thursday to block implementation of Hawaii's new gay-marriage law in court Thursday morning, clearing the way for the state to issue its first-same sex wedding licenses.

Hawaii Rep. Bob McDermott had asked for a temporary restraining order to delay any marriages until the court can rule on whether the law conflicts with a 1998 constitutional amendment that gave the Legislature the power to limit marriages to those between a man and a woman.

The challenge also cites a 1994 Hawaii law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

Hawaii Atty. Gen. David Louie, defending the legislation signed into law this week, has said that he believes the Legislature has the right to allow same-sex marriage. The constitutional amendment gave the Legislature the power to ban same-sex marriage, but did not actually ban it, he contends.


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

In court, plaintiffs' attorney Jack Dwyer argued that voters thought they were defining marriage as between a man and a woman when they approved the amendment.

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

On Thursday, Circuit Court Judge Karl Sakamoto ruled that that the legislature had the right to pass the new same-sex marriage law.

"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 court.

Hawaii became the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage Wednesday when Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a bill into law that will allow gay weddings as soon as Dec. 2. 

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

The legislation is the latest in a recent flurry of activity regarding same-sex marriage rights. The Illinois Legislature passed a same-sex marriage bill last week, though Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has said he will not sign his state’s bill until Nov. 20. The District of Columbia also permits same-sex couples to wed.

Including Hawaii and Illinois, approximately a third of the states in the country will now allow gay marriage. This represents a significant victory for gay-rights advocates, furthered by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June to void a key section of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal benefits to gay and lesbian couples who were married under state law.

Delaware, Minnesota and Rhode Island began allowing such nuptials this year. New Jersey began allowing same-sex weddings in October after that state's Supreme Court ruled it was permitted and Gov. Chris Christie dropped his opposition.

It’s a totally frivolous lawsuit that really is just an act of desperation trying to rain on a happy day but its not stopping the happiness here,” Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry, told the Los Angeles Times Wednesday as he attended the signing.


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