Court challenge to Hawaii’s new marriage law fails

Posted on 15 Nov 2013 at 12:36pm
Rep. Bob McDermott

Rep. Bob McDermott

A Hawaiian judge heard a complaint filed by state Rep. Bob McDermott, a Republican who voted against the state’s new marriage-equality law. After an hour of testimony, the judge ruled the new law constitutional.

Anti-equality activists claim the state constitutional amendment forbids the Legislature from passing a marriage-equality law.

The amendment reads: “The Legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples.”

The judge interpreted that to mean that the Legislature may limit marriage but doesn’t have to limit marriage to opposite sex couples. Marriage equality begins in the state on Dec. 2. Although the Legislature has the power, it decided not to exercise it in this case.

In addition to people traveling from the mainland to Hawaii to marry, the state is expecting a large influx of same-sex couples from Japan. Since 2009, Japan has recognized marriages performed outside the country, although it does not offer marriage equality at home.

Japanese make up 200 percent of Hawaii’s tourists. More than 27,000 Japanese couples married in Hawaii in 2010, the year before the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. As Japan continues to recover, that number is expected to increase, and same-sex couples who don’t have the option of marrying at home are expected to be a large part of the increase.

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