Same-sex marriage opponents file suit against state over Marriage Equity Law

New marriage equality law faces court challenge
Published: Nov. 14, 2013 at 2:29 AM HST|Updated: Nov. 14, 2013 at 2:43 PM HST
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State Rep. Bob McDermott
State Rep. Bob McDermott

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Supporters of same-sex marriage celebrated the signing of the Marriage Equality Law, even as opponents continued to express disappointment, and prepared to challenge the new law in court.

Supporters gathered at Hula's Bar and Lei Stand to thank volunteers involved in getting the law passed, while others celebrated in downtown Honolulu at The Arts at Mark's Garage.

"Today, love is the law in Hawaii," said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry. He filed a brief in the Baehr vs. Miike lawsuit, on behalf of one of the same-sex couples that was denied a marriage license in Hawaii in 1990.

Even as Wolfson and other supporters toasted a victory, opponents of the new law, including state Rep. Bob McDermott, have one more stop -- the courtroom of Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto, who last week declined to issue a temporary restraining order against the Senate Bill 1 granting same-sex couples the right to marry. But he told McDermott and his attorney to return when the bill was signed into law.

"He sure sounded like he was inviting us back to discuss the constitutionality of the issue," said McDermott after last week's court hearing. "What the people meant, and clearly what they were told, trumps all the lawyer fancy footwork."

McDermott's lawsuit hinges on the language used in the voter instructions for the 1998 amendment to the state constitution, giving the legislature the power to define marriage.

"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?" said McDermott's attorney Jack Dwyer, also immediately after the court hearing.

"The people, when we voted, thought that we were voting to limit marriage to opposite sex couples," said Walter Yoshimitsu, Chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu.

Supporters are dismissing the challenge. Among them is a former state lawmaker involved in the campaign on the amendment in 1998.

"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," said Jackie Young.

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

Supporters are confident the judge will throw out McDermott's attempt to block the law. But if he doesn't, they are also confident that the law will be upheld by the State Supreme Court.

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