Hawaii Judge Upholds State’s New Gay Marriage Law
HONOLULU -- A Hawaii judge on Thursday ruled the state’s brand new gay marriage law is legal, despite a challenge saying voters thought they barred same-sex marriage 15 years ago in the state constitution.
Hawaii Circuit Court Judge Karl Sakamoto said the 1998 amendment didn’t force the Legislature to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Sakamoto says it doesn’t factor into lawmakers’ ability to allow gay couples to wed.
"Same-sex marriage in Hawaii is legal," Sakamoto ruled after hearing arguments for more than an hour from the state attorney general and a Republican lawmaker who voted against the bill in the House last week.
The challenge brought by Rep. Bob McDermott was an attempt to block the state from enacting the new law, signed Wednesday by Gov. Neil Abercrombie. The measure allows the state health department to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples Dec. 2. Ceremonies can begin the same day.
McDermott’s challenge centered on language in the amendment that he said trumped lawmakers wanting to redefine marriage. The amendment reads: "The legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples."
McDermott’s lawyer Jack Dwyer argued voters were told that phrasing meant they were voting against gay marriage.
"All you have to do is determine what the intent of the people was," Dwyer said.
Attorney General David Louie argued lawmakers didn’t pass the law based on the merits of the constitutional amendment. He said they were simply doing their normal job of debating and enacting laws.