HONOLULU — Hawaii’s Governor Neil Abercrombie says that he believes the state’s law prohibiting same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, but his Attorney General’s office said it will continue to defend it in federal court.
The governor signed into law last year a measure which permits same-sex couples to enter into state-sanctioned “civil unions” but Hawaii’s constitutional ban of same-sex marriages remains in effect.
Under the current statutes, heterosexual couples in the state may choose to enter into either a marriage or a civil union, but same-sex couples, however, are only permitted to enter into a civil union.
In a news release Wednesday, the Attorney General’s office said it has filed separate court responses for the governor and Health Department director Loretta Fuddy to a lawsuit that challenges the state constitutional ban of same sex marriages.
“My obligation as Governor is to support equality under law. This is inequality, and I will not defend it,” Abercrombie said.
Howverm Health Department director Fuddy told the local press that it is her job to administer the law now on the books and that is what she must do.
“The Department of Health is charged with implementing the law as passed by the Legislature.,” said Fuddy. “Absent any ruling to the contrary by competent judicial authority regarding constitutionality, the law will be enforced. Because I am being sued for administering the law, I will also defend it.”
Fuddy said her legal position was drawn up after consultations with the governor.
The lawsuit was filed in November by same sex couple Natasha Jackson and Janin Kleid after they were denied a marriage license by the Health Department.
Jackson and Kleid claim that the state’s refusal to issue them a marriage license violates their due process and equal protection rights guaranteed them by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
Attorney General David Louie said his office will represent both Abercrombie and Fuddy in the lawsuit, despite their divergent positions.
“In this case, both the Governor and the Director are being represented by separate teams of attorneys general, and appropriate protections have been put in place to ensure that both clients are being vigorously, and separately, represented,” Louie’s office said.