Hawaii judge refuses to block new same-sex marriage law

HONOLULU Thu Nov 14, 2013 11:22pm EST

Eileen McKee (C) hugs Carolyn Golujuch after Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie signed Senate Bill 1, allowing same sex marriage to be legal in the state, in Honolulu, Hawaii November 13, 2013. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

Eileen McKee (C) hugs Carolyn Golujuch after Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie signed Senate Bill 1, allowing same sex marriage to be legal in the state, in Honolulu, Hawaii November 13, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Hugh Gentry

HONOLULU (Reuters) - Opponents of Hawaii's new gay marriage law failed in their bid to block implementation of the measure on Thursday when a judge refused to grant a court order preventing marriage licenses from being issued to same-sex couples beginning next month.

The new law, which cleared the Democratic-controlled Legislature on Tuesday and was signed on Wednesday by Democratic Governor Neil Abercrombie, paves the way for gay and lesbian couples to be legally wed in Hawaii starting on December 2.

A Republican legislator and others opposed to the marriage equality law filed a court challenge even before it was passed, seeking a restraining order that would keep it from taking effect.

Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto in Honolulu had refused to even consider the opponents' motion until the law was enacted, and on Thursday, following an hour of oral arguments from both sides, he denied the request for an injunction.

"After all the legal complexities of the court's analysis, the court will conclude that same-sex marriage in Hawaii is legal," Sakamoto said.

The new law made Hawaii the 15th U.S. state to legalize nuptials for gay and lesbian couples, rolling back a 1994 statute that defined marriage exclusively as a union between a man and a woman.

Republican Bob McDermott, a member of Hawaii's House of Representatives leading the effort to block the measure, said it conflicts with a 1998 voter-passed constitutional amendment vesting the state Legislature with authority to limit marriages to heterosexual couples.

One of six House Republicans to vote against the gay marriage bill last week, McDermott cited ballot information circulated at the time of 1998 amendment explaining that its passage would empower legislators to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples "only."

Therefore, McDermott argued, that was the intent of voters who approved it, and that was how the court should interpret it, despite the fact that word "only" did not appear in the ballot question itself, nor in the amendment as enacted.

Attorney Jack Dwyer, who represented gay marriage opponents in court, told Reuters after the hearing that difference between the ballot information and the ballot question itself amounted to a "bait and switch."

The state attorney general's office countered there was nothing in the constitutional amendment precluding legislators from extending marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The state further argued that seeking to interpret the amendment based on misleading pre-election information amounted to trying to rewrite the state constitution to suit opponents' preferences.

The judge found that the wording of the amendment was unambiguous in giving the Legislature discretion to legalize gay marriage.

Moreover, he said the state constitution grants lawmakers broad powers to legislate on domestic relations, including matrimony, said Anne Lopez, a special assistant to Attorney General David Louie.

Dwyer said gay marriage opponents have not decided whether to press ahead with their case.

(Reporting by Treena Shapiro in Honolulu Writing and additional reporting from Los Angeles By Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)

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Comments (2)
knmaui wrote:
It is so unfortunate that from President down to reps. are so into same sex marriage.
It is clearly wrong that a handful of legislators define marriage for the State.
I for one vote YES on 1998 believing that it will limit marriage to one man and one woman. Gay people are already allowed for the civil unions why they have to destroy our future generation? They can not produce their own generation, they will just depend upon the unfortunate, innocent babies and children. It is so awful that these children have no say…I hope there will be a justice and correction in the future.

Nov 15, 2013 1:19am EST  --  Report as abuse
wayner1 wrote:
It is too bad that Hawaiians who claim they were misled by the plain language of the 1998 referendum lacked the intelligence to read and understand what is says. Nowhere does it mention that a yes vote will impose a ban on gay marriage, and it specifically leaves the matter to the legislature.Nowhere does the language create a ban. As far as “destroying future generations”, consider Massachsetts which has had gay marriage for almost 10 years. It has the second LOWEST rate of divorce in the nation and a lower than average rate of juvenile delinquency…….some “destruction”!!!!!

Nov 15, 2013 10:53am EST  --  Report as abuse
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