Lambda Legal Applauds After Hawai'i State Legislature Passes Marriage Equality Bill

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November 12, 2013

Today, the Hawai'i Senate voted to pass the marriage equality bill, setting the stage for Hawai'i to join the growing list of states where same-sex couples have won the freedom to marry. The measure was approved by the Hawai'i House of Representatives last week during the special legislative session called by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to consider the legislation. Gov. Abercrombie has indicated his support of the measure and is expected to sign it shortly.

Jennifer Pizer, Lambda Legal Senior Counsel and Director, Law and Policy Project, said:

Marriage equality has come at last to the place that first showed America what should be offered, with a smile and aloha, everywhere. Twenty years ago, the Supreme Court of Hawai'i ruled that denying marriage licenses to lesbian and gay couples appeared to be sex discrimination. Today, Hawai'i legislators fulfilled the promise of that first ruling and have made Hawai'i truly the Aloha State.

Lambda Legal is proud to have worked closely with state advocates and officials to craft this legislation. We congratulate the tireless community leaders and allies who fought hard for its passage, and thank the steadfast elected officials and their dedicated staff who made possible this victory for love and fairness.

Twenty years later, we celebrate the growing number of states where same-sex couples can marry, now numbering 16, together with our Nation’s capital. We thank Governor Abercrombie for his leadership, and the many principled members of the legislature who voted to ensure that everyone has the freedom to marry the person they love. Much work remains to be done, but let us savor how much progress we have made and that soon wedding bells can ring for all loving couples across beautiful Hawai'i.

Lambda Legal’s marriage equality work in Hawai'i began with that first case. We submitted an amicus brief to the high court, and, after the 1993 ruling, joined as counsel in Baehr v. Miike for the subsequent trial, securing a victory in 1996. Sadly, the prospect of fair, welcoming treatment of same-sex couples was met with an angry backlash from antigay conservative religious and political voices locally and nationally, who mounted campaigns targeting gay people with state constitutional amendments and the federal so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which finally was stricken as unconstitutional this past June.

Just this past month, New Jersey finally joined the roster of marriage equality states thanks to a committed litigation effort Lambda Legal first launched in 2002, and this week saw Illinois join Hawai'i and pass a marriage equality bill drafted and championed by Lambda Legal attorneys. In addition to Baehr v. Miike, Lambda Legal’s work on behalf of same-sex couples in Hawai'i includes Young v. Lingle, a 2010 lawsuit filed with the ACLU of Hawai'i on behalf of six same-sex couples seeking civil union status in order to secure more robust protections for each other than was afforded under the reciprocal beneficiaries status to which they had been relegated since the 1998 constitutional amendment was passed. Hawai'i passed a civil union statute in 2011 and Lambda Legal and the ACLU dismissed the lawsuit. Lambda Legal currently represents a lesbian couple, Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford, turned away from a Honolulu bed & breakfast because of the owner’s religious objection to offering lodging to same-sex couples.

Lambda Legal helped with the drafting of the bill passed today, consulting on its contents and language with legislative leaders and other state officials and collaborating with local attorneys and the many community organizations acting together as Hawai'i United for Marriage. Gov. Abercrombie is expected to sign the bill soon, and same-sex couples will be able to marry starting on December 2, 2013.

Read the press release.