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

2013-NOV-14 to 2014-FEB:
Rep. McDermott fails to obtain injunction (Cont'd)
Reaction to SSM by pastor of Aloha Bible Prophecy.
SSMs begin at midnight on the morning of DEC-02.
Rep McDermott launches second lawsuit to
prevent SSMs and again fails.

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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2013-NOV-14: Rep Bob McDermott unsuccessfully sought a temporary restraining order (Cont'd):

McDermott's argument was presented by lawyer Jack Dwyer. It was based on the understanding that voters had when they were voting on the 1998 plebiscite. Dwyer told reporters:

"Basically I think it's just a question of what did the people know and understand. What did they intend when they passed that amendment?" 1

Walter Yoshimitsu, Chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu said:

"The people, when we voted, thought that we were voting to limit marriage to opposite sex couples."

Jackie Young, who was a legislator back in 1998 when the plebiscite was voted upon, said:

"I talked to the lawmakers today who wrote it, and they said absolutely, the intent was to give it to the legislature at some future date to do exactly what they did today."

However, McDermott's case is not based on the intent of the legislators, but on the understanding of the scope of the plebiscite by the voters back in 1998.

Dwyer argued that before the Legislature could pass a law legalizing SSM, the voters would first have to pass a new plebiscite that would give the Legislature the power to do so.

Perhaps if the original plebiscite had been worded so that that:

  • The Legislature must pass a law banning same-sex marriage, or that

  • The Legislature could pass such a law, but that if it did so, they could never repeal or amend that law in the future, then

Rep. McDermott might have had a case. But that is now how the plebiscite was written. It merely gave the Hawaiian Legislature the authority to issue a law that banned same-sex marriage if they wished to do so. It did not include any provision that would prevent the Legislature from later reversing its decision and legalizing same-sex marriage as they did 15 years later with SB1.

Documents written by Deputy Attorney General John Molay and filed by the state on NOV-13 argued that McDermott and his supporters did not have standing to initiate the lawsuit because they have not shown that they would suffer actual harm as a result of marriage equality. 2

State Attorney General David Louie said:

"They're trying to say that SB 1 is somehow unconstitutional. I disagree entirely. It's completely constitutional. The legislature, as the governor was talking about, has the power." 1

Louie had argued in court that:

""The Legislature can change its mind at any time on any statute it wants." 3

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2013-NOV-14: Circuit Court Judge Karl Sakamoto denies Rep. McDermott's request for a TRO:

The Honolulu Start Advertiser reported that:

"After hearing arguments for about an hour, [Judge] Sakamoto said that while state Rep. Bob McDermott and others had standing to file their request to block the new marriage equality law, the state Legislature has the inherent authority to define marriage independent of a 1998 constitutional amendment that gave the Legislature the power to reserve marriage to heterosexual couples. 2

'After all the legal complexities of the court's analysis, the court will conclude that same-sex marriage in Hawaii is legal,' Sakamoto said."

Attorney General Louie said:

"I'm very pleased with the court's ruling. I think the court clearly said that SB1 is constitutional. SB1 can go forward. The Legislature had the power to enact SB1 under its general powers as a Legislature." 4

Rep. McDermott said:

"All you can do is all you can do, and that's what we tried to do today. We tried to give a voice to the people of Hawaii. We fell short, and I guess that's my fault, but we did the best we can [sic] do." 3

He appears to be referring to giving a "voice" only to the people of Hawaii who oppose marriage equality. Recent polls show that they are in a minority that is shrinking.

McDermott and Dwyer have not yet decided whether to appeal the case to a higher court. However, even if they did appeal, and even if they were to obtain a TRO from a higher court that prohibited the issuance of marriage licenses, it is doubtful whether they could get it in time to prevent at least a few well organized same-sex couples from marrying, starting NOV-02.

We recommend that any same-sex couples who are planning to get married in the near future do it sooner rather than later, just in case the unexpected happens and Rep. McDermott (R) is successful in his quest to restore discrimination against same-sex couples.

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2013-NOV-17?: Reaction to SSM by the pastor of Aloha Bible Prophecy:

An unidentified conservative Christian pastor preaches an undated 33 minute sermon about "the torrid topic of same-sex marriage" in Hawaii. It is titled "Why an All Out Assault on Marriage?"


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2013-DEC-02: All loving, committed couples can now marry in Hawaii:

Shortly after midnight in the morning of DEC-02, the Sheraton Waikiki resort hosted a mass marriage ceremony for about 35 same-sex couples. Fortunately for the happy couples, no protestors showed up to disturb the event.

Also at midnight, a group of clergy who had been promoting the marriage equality law joined with Governor Abercrombie to attend a wedding in downtown Honolulu. Rev. Jonipher Kupono Kwong, an openly gay Unitarian Universalist minister, married his partner of 15 years, Chris Nelson.

Rev. Kwong said:

"I've done many weddings for other couples but didn't realize how profound it would be for me. At the end of the evening I was speechless to be part of that historic moment, not just for us but those who will come after. I also felt a little sad that some of the people who came before were not able to complete marriage and see it in their lifetime. ... It felt like we were actually first-class citizens. We're both still riding cloud nine at this point." 7

Lisa Veneri and Renea Steward have waited almost 20 years for the opportunity to marry in Hawaii. They celebrated their union in 1999 and were among the first same-sex couples married in the Sheraton Waikiki. Steward said:

"You could say, 'This is my wife,' and people would say, 'Yeah, yeah, OK.' And people in your community and your family would respect it. But still, it just didn't have the weight that it carries today. I feel happy, because I don't feel invisible anymore. ... We've waited 20 years to be legally recognized. We don't want to wait a day longer." 8

Lisa Veneri said:

"We want to be able to take care of our own family and have the same benefits as other married couples have. But to know that I could do it in my own state, and that they wanted to see that happen for us as well, was just like icing on the cake." 8

Ron Bockman posted a comment to the article in that described the first marriages. He said:

"So sad, a beautiful paradise polluted with freaks of nature."

To which the author of this essay, B.A. Robinson posted a comment, which was selected as the "Best" comment our of 122:

"What a glorious development as all loving, committed couples can now have their marriages sanctified in such a beautiful setting." 9,10

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2013-DEC-02 to 2014-JAN-29: Rep. Bob McDermott (R) continues fight to ban same-sex marriages:

During late 2013-NOV, McDermott filed another lawsuit to terminate same-sex marriages in Hawaii.

Matt Baume of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) commented on the status of marriages solemnized by same-sex couples married between 2013-DEC-02 and the date of Judge Sakamoto's future ruling if it is favorable to McDermott:

"... if McDermott wins, what happens to their licenses? That's anyone's guess. According to McDermott, a preexisting law prohibits the legislature from enacting a marriage equality law. He might push for an annulment of all the licenses issued to same-sex couples.

Or we could face a situation similar to California after the passage of Prop 8: Couples married in the window of legal marriage could keep their license, but no new licenses could be issued.

In any event, McDermott's chances of success are slim. This is a last-ditch effort to overturn a bill that was meticulously crafted to withstand just such a challenge. Nevertheless, it's a potential roadblock worth watching." 11

Judge Sakamoto scheduled a hearing on the new lawsuit for 2014-JAN-13.

McDermott lost again. On JAN-29, Judge Sakamoto ruled that the Hawaii Marriage Equality Act is constitutional, that same-sex couples married to date had valid marriages and that same-sex couples can marry in the future.

Attorney General David M Louie issued a statement saying that the ruling:

"... unequivocally affirmed the right of people to marry the person they love without regard to gender. This is a very good day for the people of Hawaii."

He also said that he was not surprised by the ruling. He continued:

"We are particularly pleased that the Court ruled expeditiously, because we do not want any uncertainty for the many couples who have chosen to take advantage of this law. Marriage equality is the law of the land in Hawaii."¬ 12

McDermott claimed that he didn't win his previous lawsuit because his lawyer wasn't qualified. He said:

"I had a wonderful attorney, a brilliant guy. But he wasn‚€™t a constitutional attorney. He was a real estate attorney. A great guy, a real estate attorney, but not a constitutional expert. We‚€™re saying [to the judge] 'Your honor, you made a mistake'." 13

He promised to appeal the decision.

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Future developments expected as the appeal proceeds.

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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. Ben Gutierrex, "Same-sex marriage opponents file suit against state over Marriage Equity Law." Hawaii News Now, 2013-NOV-14, at:
  2. "Judge refuses to block Hawaii's same-sex marriage law," Honolulu Star Advertiser, 2013-NOV-15, at:
  3. Oskar Garcia, "Hawaii judge upholds state's new gay marriage law," USA Today, 2013-NOV-14, at:
  4. David Badash, "Hawaii: Christian Groups And GOP Lawmaker Lose Court Case To Kill Same-Sex Marriage," The New Civil Rights Movement, 2013-NOV-14, at:
  5. "Why an All Out Assault on Marriage?" Aloha Bible Prophecy, 2014-NOV-17?, at:
  6. The text of the Hawaii Marriage Equality Act of 2013 can be read on Scribd at:
  7. Malia Mattoch McManus, "Joyous same-sex couples wed in Hawaii as gay marriage becomes legal," Chicago Tribune, 2013-DEC-02, at:
  8. Bill Chappell, "Gay marriages take place in Hawaii as new law takes hold," National Public Radio, 2013-DEC-02, at:
  9. "Hawaii gay marriage: Gay weddings become reality with new law," Associated Press, 2013-DEC-03, at:
  10. Pat Gee, "Minister and partner to wed in isles' first gay marriages," Honolulu Star Advertiser, 2013-DEC-02, at:
  11. Matt Baume, "Meet the One Lawmaker Still Trying to Stop Marriage Equality in Hawaii," Huffington Post, 2013-DEC-02, at:
  12. "US: Hawaii court rejects Republican‚€™s bid to end same-sex¬ marriages," Pink News, 2014-JAN-31, at:
  13. Andrew Walden, "Judge Tosses Gay Marriage Suit," Hawai'i Free Press, 2014-JAN-31, at:

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Copyright © 2013 & 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2012-NOV-13
Latest update: 2014-JAN-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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