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Hawaii same-sex marriage pioneer who sparked national debate weds partner

Wednesday, December 18, 2013
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KHON-TVGenora Dancel Kathryn Dennis

KHON-TV
Genora Dancel (left) and Kathryn Dennis

HONOLULU — One of the Hawaii women who sparked the national same-sex marriage battle with a lawsuit more than 20 years ago is now legally married to another woman.

Genora Dancel has wed Kathryn Dennis, her partner of 15 years.

The couple married Tuesday in a ceremony 23 years to the day when Dancel, her partner at the time and two other gay couples were denied marriage licenses, leading to a 1993 Hawaii Supreme Court that the couple’s equal protection rights were being violated.

That case was remanded to the trial court to determine if the state could demonstrate that denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples was in the state’s interest, but as the case moved through state courts, the 1998 passage of a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage led to its dismissal in 1999.

In the intervening years, the possibility that the courts might invalidate Hawaii’s marriage eligibility requirements provided an impetus for the enactment of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, and eventually, dozens of statutes and constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage in states across the country.

Dan Foley, one of Dancel’s attorneys in 1990, is now an Associate Judge of the Intermediate Court of Appeals, and performed the ceremony for Dancel and Dennis Tuesday in the same state supreme courtroom where she challenged Hawaii’s law more than 20 years ago, reported KHON-TV.

Dancel also said the clerk who denied her license in 1990 was the same one who approved it this time.

Hawaii is now among 16 states and Washington, D.C., where same-sex marriage is legal. The law, passed in the state legislature, took effect Dec. 2.

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