Same sex couples begin planning weddings - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Same sex couples begin planning weddings

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

With the state Legislature poised to pass the controversial same-sex marriage bill, gay and lesbian couples are beginning to line up at wedding podium.

"We hope to be the first but it's okay if we're not. We're just excited," said Renea Stewart of Hawaii Kai.

Stewart and Lisa Veneri plan to get married at the stroke of midnight on Dec. 2, which is the day same-sex marriages are expected to become legal in Hawaii.

Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Steven Levinson will preside over the ceremony for the couple, who are tying the knot after 20 years together.

"What this does for us -- to actually be legally married -- it just really gives us a place in the community and doesn't make us feel like second-class citizens anymore," said Stewart.

Veneri says she's excited to become one of the first couples to be married under the new same-sex law.

"It's historical and I think of all of those who have paved the way to be where we are today," she said.

"And now we're paving the way and hopefully creating an environment for the youth to feel comfortable and feel they have a place."

Late Friday night, the state House passed the measure and the Senate is expected to quickly approve the bill on Tuesday before sending it to Gov. Neil Abercrombie to sign into law.

Stewart and Veneri said they got "chicken skin" when the House approved the bill.

"The energy was really electric. People were coming from all walks of life," Stewart said.

"That was amazing."

But even as couples like Stewart and Veneri prepare to exchange their vows, at least one lawmaker is hoping to throw a wrench into those plans.

Rep. Robert McDermott, R-Ewa, Iroquois Point, said he plans to refile a lawsuit, challenging the constitutionality of the bill.

McDermott believes that the Legislature only has the power to define marriage as an act involving members of the opposite sex. He cites campaign material for a 1998 constitutional amendment that led many laymen to believe that they were banning gay marriage in Hawaii.

"My attorneys are working as we speak and they will be down there in the courtroom as soon as (Gov. Abercrombie) signs it," McDermott said.

A similar challenge by McDermott was rejected earlier this week by Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto, who said the retraining order sought by the suit was premature.

Sakamoto also he's open to holding a hearing on the constitutional validity of the measure once it's signed by the governor.

Attorney General David Louie said he expects that challenge to be rejected as well.

Louie said the actual language used in the 1998 constitutional amendment -- and not the campaign materials for the vote --- is what's controlling here. And that language gives the Legislature the authority to determine whether same-sex marriages can be made legal, he said.

"He is seeking to have the court somehow rewrite the constitutional amendment and I don't think the courts are going to do that," Louie said.

"I think his lawsuit is not well founded. It's without any merit."

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