Governor, DOH have differing responses to same-sex lawsuit

Published: Feb. 21, 2012 at 9:24 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 22, 2012 at 2:42 AM HST
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John D'Amato
John D'Amato

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Governor Abercrombie and the state's health director have come out on different sides in a lawsuit challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

According to Attorney General David Louie, the governor and Health Director Loretta Fuddy filed separate answers to the federal lawsuit, which was brought by a same-sex couple and a man who wants to file for a marriage with his male partner.

In his response, Gov. Abercrombie said that "Under current law, a heterosexual couple can choose to enter into a marriage or a civil union. A same-sex couple, however, may only elect a civil union. My obligation as Governor is to support equality under law. This is inequality, and i will not defend it."

"It's bittersweet, but I do feel great that agrees and that he's actually standing by us in that way," said Natasha Jackson, who filed the lawsuit with her partner, Janin Kleid, after they were denied a marriage license by the Department of Health last November. The two have entered a civil union, but want the same benefits of marriage that opposite-sex couples have, including having their marriage recognized in all states. "If we get the rights here, we don't want to go someplace where we don't have the rights. It just doesn't make sense so it limits our mobility," said Kleid.

A third plaintiff, Gary Bradley, and his partner were the first male couple to obtain a civil union when it became legal on January 1.

Meanwhile, Fuddy chose to defend against the complaint. In a statement, Fuddy said, "The Department of Health is charged with implementing the law as passed by the Legislature. Absent any ruling to the contrary by competent judicial authority regarding constitutionality, the law will be enforced. Because I am being sued for administering the law, I will also defend it."

Jackson said the health department should take another look at the law. "If your supervisor is saying, hey, I kinda don't agree with us doing that, at that point should you then step back? Not go against the law but re-examine the law and re-examine where you stand on it. So I felt at that point she wasn't doing that. Just everything was black and white," she said.

"It may not have a practical effect for our case, but we think its an extremely significant political and moral development to have an important representative of the state, like the governor, stand up and speak his conscience," said John D'Amato, who is representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

"It's not the final hurdle that we'll have. This is going to be a journey," said Jackson. "This is a, I guess a lookout point where we'll stop and take pictures here but we know we're not there yet."

A scheduling conference on the lawsuit is scheduled in April.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.