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Same-sex marriages (SSM) & civil unions in Hawaii

2013-NOV-08 to 13:
Governor signed bill into law on NOV-13.
Rep. McDermott fails to obtain injunction
to prevent SSMs from starting on DEC-02.

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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2013-NOV-13: Governor Abercrombie (D) signed bill SB1 into law:

Early on NOV-13, Governor Neil Abercrombie issued a memo referring to the over 23 year long conflict leading to today's achievement of marriage equality for all Hawaii couples. He said:

"I now have the honor and privilege of righting this wrong, ending this inequity, and signing this bill into law."

Governor Abercrombie joined with several hundred invited people in the Liliu Theater at the Hawai'i Convention Center in Waikiki, HI at 10 AM local time/3 PM Eastern Time on Wednesday.

A 53 minute video video of the proceedings by Hawaii News Now is available online. 1 I attempted to include it in this essay by embedding the coding but was unsuccessful.

In advance of the signing, Sen. Clayton Hee (D), chair of the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee addressed the crowd:

"I could have never imagined playing a role in such a profound yet, in my mind, such a simple thing to do: Bring justice and equality to all of us."

Attorney General David Louie said that this is a:

"... new era of aloha for same sex couples who want to get married."

State Rep. Chris Lee (D) referred to repeated criticism by those opposed to equality concerning the timing of the special session of the Legislature. He said:

"It is never the wrong time, to do the right thing."

By having the special session in 2013-November, same-sex couples could get married in December and qualify for some federal benefits for all of 2013.

Governor Abercrombie addressed the crowd by reading from the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which guarantees separation of church and state as well as religious freedom, saying:

"I submit to you that SB1 is the epitome of the First Amendment in action."

He signed Senate Bill 1, House Draft 1, at about 11 AM local time, making Hawaii officially the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage and thereby bring marriage equality to the state.

Before the signing, two pens were laid on top of the marriage bill. Presumably one was to sign the bill and the other was a spare just in case the first one failed. Whether intentional or accidental they were arranged to approximate an equal symbol:

SB1 bill, ready for signing 2

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2013-NOV-14: Rep Bob McDermott unsuccessfully sought a temporary restraining order from Circuit Court to halt same-sex marriages:

The 23 year battle to bring marriage equality to Hawaii continued, and may have concluded in court, on Thursday, NOV-14 -- the day after bill SB1 was signed into law by Governor Abercrombie.

Rep. Bob McDermott (R), supported by a group of conservative Christians, had launched a lawsuit in Circuit Court earlier in November that sought to have the Marriage Equality Act of 2013 declared unconstitutional because the Legislature lacked the authority to pass it.

According to the Star-Advertiser newspaper:

"McDermott ... claims that his reputation and electability will suffer because he led voters to believe in 1998 that the constitutional amendment would [permanently] ban same-sex marriage. William Kumia, a pastor and marriage coach, fears hate crimes and lawsuits if he refuses to counsel same-sex couples. Garret Hashimoto, state chairman of the Hawaii Christian Coalition, worries that religious schools would be forced to either teach same-sex education or close.

[Deputy Attorney General John] Molay dismissed such arguments as 'the sky is falling' hypotheticals meant to generate fear rather than demonstrate concrete injuries'." 3

Their case was based on a 1998 plebiscite. In advance of that vote by the public, a voters' guide had been mailed to all of the voters. It contained a short section titled: "The Meaning of a 'Yes' vote:"

"A 'Yes' vote would add a new provision to the constitution that would give the Legislature the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples only. The Legislature could then pass a law that would limit marriage to the union of one man and one woman, overturning the recent Supreme Court decision regarding same-sex couples." 4

Note that the plebiscite's description did not say that the Legislature had to pass such a law, or that once passed, they could never repeal or amend the law in the future. The purpose of the plebiscite was to amend the Constitution so as to take the authority away from the Hawaii Supreme Court and give it to the Hawaii Legislature.

The question asked of the voters in the 1998 plebiscite was:

"€œShall the Constitution of the state of Hawaii be amended to specify that the Legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples?" 5

The Amendment itself states that:

"The legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples." 5

The plebiscite was passed by the electorate by an overwhelming margin. In Hawaii and the rest of the Nation at the time, public opinion strongly opposed marriage equality. Support for equality has since increased by about 1 to 2 percentage points per year and is is now the wish of the majority. Opposition to equality has fallen at about the same rate. The Hawaii'an Legislature later exercised its new authority by passing a law restricting marriage to one woman and one man.

Earlier in November, Rep. McDermott had sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Circuit Court to stop the Legislature from voting on SB1. His request was refused by Judge Karl Sakamoto on the basis of the separation of powers among the Legislature, state courts and Governor. This separation allows the courts to declare an act to be unconstitutional once it is passed and signed into law. But it has no power to order the Legislature to stop its proceedings in the middle of its debate on a bill. Judge Sakamoto suggested that McDermott return to his court in the event that Bill SB1 later became law.

Governor Abercrombie did sign SB1 into law on NOV-13, and McDermott returned to court the next day, anxious to obtain a TRO which would prevent the government from issuing marriage licenses to loving, committed same-sex couples starting on DEC-02. Their eventual goal was to have the courts declare the Marriage Equality Act of 2013 unconstitutional.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. Ian Scheuring, "Bill legalizing same-sex marriages in Hawaii signed into law," Hawaii News Now, 2013-NOV-13, at:
  2. "Abercrombie signs same-sex marriage bill into law," Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 2013-NOV-13, at:
  3. "Judge refuses to block Hawaii's same-sex marriage law," Honolulu Star Advertiser, 2013-NOV-15, at:
  4. "Lawsuit fails to stop Hawaii legislature from passing gay marriage legislation," Hawaii Reporter, 2013-NOV-07, at:
  5. "Judge Rules Against Challenge To Hawaii Marriage Equality Law," Lez Get Real, 2013-NOV-15, at:
  6. The text of the Hawaii Marriage Equality Act of 2013 can be read on Scribd at:

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Copyright 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2012-NOV-13
Latest update: 2013-NOV-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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