Hawaii Judge Upholds Newly Passed Marriage Equality Law


Hawaii Rep. Bob McDermott (R)

Hawaii Rep. Bob McDermott (R)

The chief opponent of Hawaii’s new marriage equality law has been state Rep. Bob McDermott (R), who filed a lawsuit challenging the legislature’s ability to pass such a law. Thursday, Judge Karl Sakamoto ruled against McDermott, finding no evidence that recognizing same-sex marriages violated Hawaii’s constitution.

McDermott argued that when voters passed the 1998 constitutional amendment, they believed that they were actually banning same-sex marriage. What the amendment itself said was, “The legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples,” but McDermott fixated on the ballot information sent to voters in advance of election day, which said that the amendment would give the Legislature the power to reserve marriage to heterosexual couples only. That “only,” he argued, referred to which power the Legislature was exclusively granted, not the way it might define marriage.

After hearing oral arguments, Sakamoto ruled that McDermott did have standing to bring the suit, but that his argument didn’t hold up. He pointed out that defining the parameters of marriage is an inherent right of the Legislature with or without the 1998 amendment, including the recognition of same-sex couples’ unions. Marriage equality, Sakamoto concluded, is in compliance with the state’s equal protection laws and perfectly constitutional.