News (USA)

Wins, setbacks mark the path to nationwide marriage equality

A year and a half after filing his opinions in Hawaii's same-sex marriage case, Levinson's daughter Jen
A year and a half after filing his opinions in Hawaii’s same-sex marriage case, Levinson’s daughter Jen “came out” to her father. Freedom to Marry

[ Previous ]

Steven Levinson was a new addition to Hawaii’s Supreme Court in 1992 when that court heard the case of three same-sex couples challenging the state’s marriage prohibition. In May 1993, he was the author of the court’s ruling that said denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples was sex discrimination. “People were not prohibited from getting married,” Levinson said. “It was just that they had to marry someone of the opposite sex.”

He wasn’t expecting much of a reaction. “I naively assumed it was going to be the law of the land at least in the state of Hawaii forthwith,” he said. “Then all hell broke loose.”

The reaction from opponents of same-sex marriage was swift. Within three years, a bipartisan majority in Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed the federal Defense of Marriage Act, barring federal recognition of gay and lesbian marriages and bolstering states in their refusal to recognize same-sex marriages from elsewhere.

In Hawaii, lawmakers passed a bill banning same-sex marriage and voters amended the constitution to say that the decision rested with the Legislature. Same-sex marriage didn’t become legal in Hawaii until 2013.

Article continues below

But the 1993 court decision was a huge step, even with the setbacks that followed, said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of the pro-gay-marriage group Freedom to Marry.

“If you had to pick one thing that was the turning point, to me it was Hawaii because the Hawaii case really was the first time we were able to get our day in court,” Wolfson said. “In the ’70s, they all had been rubber-stamped away.”

Levinson remained on the court for 15 more years, but he said the story took a personal turn a year and a half after the ruling. “My daughter came out of the closet,” he said.

Levinson, 69, now serves on the board of the American Civil Liberties Union in Hawaii and officiated at his 36th same-sex wedding on July 4.

Continue reading

Cruz, Huckabee court evangelical votes, warn same‑sex marriage puts nation on perilous path

Previous article

Marriage equality: From fighting to achieve to something we’re actually living

Next article