Hawaiʻi Judge Upholds Marriage Equality Law

November 14, 2013, 10:04 AM HST · Updated November 14, 4:06 PM
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Photo/image by Wendy Osher.

Photo/image by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

Judge Karl Sakamoto today issued a ruling in support of a newly passed law that legalizes same sex marriage in Hawaiʻi, in response to a challenge that was filed by opponents seeking court intervention to prevent its implementation.

“After all the legal complexity of the court’s analysis, the court will conclude that same sex marriage in Hawaiʻi is legal,” said Judge Sakamoto, who heard arguments from both sides this morning.

During today’s hearing state Attorney General David Louie spoke in defense of the newly passed Hawaiʻi Marriage Equality Act of 2013, while Jack Dwyer, plaintiff attorney for Rep. Bob McDermott, spoke in opposition.

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In his ruling today, Judge Sakamoto said, “The court believes that the plaintiffs, both as citizens and voters, in matters of great public importance, have a personal stake in the outcome of this controversy, and thereby have standing — arising from what the court believes was an attempt to expand Article 1, Section 23, to include same sex marriage.”

He continued, ”The court believes in Hawaiʻi, the Legislature can define marriage in and through two means — one is constitutionally, pursuant to Article 1, Section 23; separate and apart, the can secondarily address marriage through its ordinary and customary legislative power to enact laws and different statutes pursuant to Article 3, Section 1.”

“Looking at the constitutional power under Article 1, Section 23,” Judge Sakamoto said, “there the court finds that it’s quite a unique constitutional provision in that it adds to the Legislature ordinary and customary powers to define marriage. This addition affords the Legislature not just statutory powers, it also (affords) constitutional power to exercise if it chose to define marriage with regard to opposite sex couples.”

He continued, “The court also must take into consideration the fundamental principle in construing a constitutional provision is to give effect to the intention of the framers and to the people adopting it. This intent is to be called in the instrument itself. When the text of a constitutional provision is not ambiguous, the court in construing it, is not at liberty to search for its meaning beyond the instrument.”

Under the new law, gay couples are extended the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities that married couples of the opposite-sex are presently entitled to, and can legally wed in Hawaiʻi beginning on Dec. 2, 2013.

On Wednesday, Nov. 13, Governor Neil Abercrombie signed SB1 HD1 into law, effectively legalizing same sex marriage in Hawaiʻi. The signing came after a series of approvals during a special session that began on Oct. 28, and concluded with final passage in the Senate on Tuesday, Nov. 12.

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