August 9, 2012 Print

Marriage Advocates Win in Hawaii

by Bethany Monk

A federal court on Wednesday upheld a Hawaii law defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman.

Last December, Natasha N. Jackson and Janin Kleid filed the suit, asking the court to strike down the state marriage amendment and the definition of marriage. The 1998 amendment, approved by voters, ensures the power to define marriage lies solely with the Legislature.

“It is undisputed opposite-sex couples can naturally procreate and same-sex couples cannot,” Senior District Judge Alan Kay wrote. “Allowing opposite-sex couples to marry furthers this interest and allowing same-sex couples to marry would not do so.”

Wednesday’s ruling affirms the importance of protecting and strengthening marriage as the union of one man and one woman, according to Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Dale Schowengerdt.

“The people of Hawaii adopted a constitutional amendment to uphold marriage, and the court rightly concluded that the democratic process shouldn’t be short-circuited by judicial decree,” Schowengerdt said.

ADF Litigation Counsel Holly Carmichael described the 120-page decision as “very well-reasoned and thought-out.”

“The point of the decision — that marriage is between one man and one woman — is a completely rational and good thing for society,” she said. “It re-emphasizes what we have known for so many years.”

Marriage has been under attack in Hawaii for nearly two decades.

In 1994, in response to a lawsuit seeking to impose same-sex marriage on the state, lawmakers amended the marriage statute to clarify that it is reserved only for a man and a woman. In 1997, they followed up by submitting a constitutional amendment to voters that declared that the power to define marriage was to be reserved for the Legislature alone. That amendment passed in 1998, 69 percent to 29 percent.

But in 2011, legislators passed a bill creating same-sex civil unions, giving gay couples all the legal rights granted to married couples. Activists then sued to overturn the marriage law in December.

“Many rational people believe in marriage between a man and a woman,” Carmichael said, “which is common sense.”

Civil union laws have been used by same-sex marriage advocates in several states to challenge state marriage amendments and laws.

Read the ruling in Jackson v. Abercrombie.