Hawaii Supreme Court hears arguments in challenge to marriage equality law


LGBTQ Nation

Updated: 5:30 p.m. HST

HONOLULU — The state Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday in a lawsuit challenging Hawaii‘s gay marriage law, more than a year after same-sex couples were allowed to legally marry on the islands.

GOP state Rep. Bob McDermott is seeking to have Hawaii's marriage equality law overturned.

GOP state Rep. Bob McDermott is seeking to have Hawaii’s marriage equality law overturned.

While the Legislature was considering the bill last year, Republican state Rep. Bob McDermott tried to stop the state from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. A Circuit Court denied McDermott’s motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, and he appealed.

The lawsuit by McDermott and three others – including the chairman of the Hawaii Christian Coalition – said the Legislature didn’t have the authority to pass the law.

Shawn Luiz, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, centered his argument around a 1998 constitutional amendment he said shows that voters intended to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples only.

“We need to look at the intent of the voters, and the intent of the voters was to make a ban on same sex marriage,” Luiz said.

Deputy Attorney General Deirdre Marie-Iha urged the high court to affirm the constitutionality of the law and argued that the plaintiffs have no standing to challenge it.

“The Marriage Equality Act didn’t take anything away from these plaintiffs,” she said. The law doesn’t do anything more than provide rights to more people, she said.

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The justices said they would take the arguments under advisement. It’s not known when the court will issue a ruling. Sabrina McKenna, the state’s first openly gay Supreme Court justice, recused herself.

The state attorney general’s office requested that the case bypass the Intermediate Court of Appeals and go straight to the Supreme Court. Spokeswoman Anne Lopez said that was done out of a sense of urgency to resolve the case because more than 3,000 same-sex couples have already married.

The lawsuit is the only remaining legal challenge to the law after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared as moot a lawsuit filed by a Hawaii couple seeking to marry before the state legalized gay marriage.

The couple sought to dismiss the case after they were legally allowed to marry, but opponents of the law fought to keep the lawsuit alive, with the hope a court would rule the Legislature didn’t have the power to allow gay marriage. The ruling vacated a U.S. District Court judge’s 2012 ruling against gay marriage.

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