Sign Up to Receive Email Action Alerts From Issa Exposed

Hawaii governor to sign marriage equality bill today

Marriage equality Marriage Equality Trials

Hawaii state sealToday, Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie will sign a marriage equality bill in law, making the state the 15th to allow same-sex couples to wed.  Yesterday, the state Senate held a 19-4 procedural vote to approve changes in the bill made by the state House.

The bill singing will take place at 10 a.m. local time (noon Pacific) at the Hawaii Convention Center, near Waikiki.  (A live stream will be available here.) Same-sex couples will be able to obtain marriage licenses starting December 2.

Opponents of marriage equality are not happy about Hawaii’s new law, and have already moved to block its implementation.  Rep. Bob McDermott, one such opponent of the bill, filed a lawsuit at the end of October seeking to block the bill.  In his suit, McDermott argued that voters who approved a 1998 ballot measure that gave the legislature the authority to approve or disallow marriage equality actually believed they were voting to restrict marriage to different-sex couples only.

Last Thursday, Oahu Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto refused McDermott’s request for a temporary restraining order against the Hawaii Legislature.  Judge Sakamoto said he would wait until the legislation had passed to issuing a ruling on the matter.  He is expected to do so today, according to KHON:

[O]pponents are counting on Circuit Court Judge Karl Sakamoto to stop the law from taking effect. On Thursday, he’s expected to rule on a court order that could stop the state from issuing wedding licenses for same-sex couples on the basis that the people already voted against same-sex marriage in a constitutional amendment in 1998.

“The vote the people made back in 1998 when they basically ratified the amended Constitution by virtually 70 percent in favor,” said John Dwyer, attorney for Rep. McDermott.

If the judge grants the court order then another trial will be scheduled that could essentially strike down the same-sex marriage law.

(A small note: you may have noticed that we’ve previously written that Illinois would become the 15th marriage equality state and that, in this article, we say Hawaii will be the 15th.  This is a matter of friendly debate amongst those who follow these issues.  In general, we consider a state to be a ‘marriage equality state’ either 1) when a governor signs a marriage equality bill into law or 2) when a court order mandating equal marriage rights goes into effect.  Of course, these criteria are up for debate, and this is a happy problem to have!)


  • 1. F Young  |  November 13, 2013 at 8:25 am

    Assuming the Hawaii Governor signs the bill today, when will the bill come into effect. i.e. when will the first marriages be held?

  • 2. exnocali  |  November 13, 2013 at 8:28 am

    December 2nd.

  • 3. Zack12  |  November 13, 2013 at 8:31 am

    Does anyone think this lawsuit actually has a chance?

  • 4. sfbob  |  November 13, 2013 at 9:10 am

    It seems very unlikely. The amendment itself rather clearly states that it reserve for the legislature the right to determine whether same-sex couples can marry. And nothing more. The legislature has now exercised that right in the affirmative. End of discussion.

  • 5. SoCal_Dave  |  November 13, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Actually the amendment is worded quite bizarrely, (if you ask me).
    "The legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples."

    Taken ultra-literally, it seems like it says they only have the power to decide one way.
    On the other hand, it could be easily interpreted that if they have the power "to reserve", then they also have the power to "not reserve".

    It's also unclear whether the legislature already had power to decide either way prior to the amendment. It wouldn't be the first time right-wingers insisted on putting something in a law that already existed. Most of the "religious protections" are like that. Anway, if the legislature already had the power to decide, this amendment clearly doesn't take it away.

    Here is link to Hawaii constitution
    See Article I, section 23

  • 6. Matt N  |  November 13, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Having the power means you can choose to exercise your power or not.

    If the legislature cannot extend marriage to anyone else, then this power is useless as they only have one choice!

  • 7. Dr. Z  |  November 13, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    If McDermott's argument were to be taken seriously the 1998 initiative would be a pretty clearcut violation of Romer vs. Evans.

  • 8. Schteve  |  November 13, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    Keep in mind the context in which the amendment came to be. The Hawaii Supreme Court had ruled that restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples implicated the state constitution's equal protection clause as sex discrimination. It then had the lower courts see if the state could prove that the restriction could withstand that level of review. The trial court found it could not. Before the state supreme court reviewed that decision, the state had passed the amendment saying the legislature could have a statute restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples without violating the state constitution.

    If you are to assume that the amendment in question only granted the legislature the power to ban same-sex marriage, that still means the rest of the constitution would apply as it did in the 1990s in the absence of a statue restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples. With the passage of this law, Hawaii no longer has a statue restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples and the equal protection clause would again be implicated if same-sex couples could not in fact marry.

    Furthermore, to claim that this new law extending marriage rights to same-sex couples is unconstitutional is to say that the legislature never had the power to regulate marriage to begin with, and it was only this state constitutional amendment that allowed them to create a statue defining marriage for opposite-sex couples. That is just patently absurd, and would mean all marriages performed in Hawaii prior to 1998 were unconstitutional.

  • 9. Straight Ally #3008  |  November 13, 2013 at 10:04 am

    Apologies if you already watched it, but during the Senate vote one of the senators went out of his way to explain that the amendment gave the legislature the power to do exactly what they were doing in special session. McDermott's small-minded, bitter little lawsuit will hopefully be dismissed promptly. The judge couldn't have ruled on it prior to the law bing in effect, and he told McDermott as much, now to see what happens when he actually reads the challenge.

  • 10. Eric  |  November 13, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    No, but the bigger question is whether the opponents will be able to convince a judge to issue a stay to delay the law going into effect.

  • 11. Stefan  |  November 13, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    There will be no stay as the lawsuit has no chance of success.

  • 12. GregG  |  November 14, 2013 at 11:28 am

    Today's court hearing ended in favor of marriage equality

  • 13. Seth From Maryland  |  November 13, 2013 at 8:56 am


    BettelIn the coming weeks, Xavier Bettel will be forming a coalition government in Luxembourg and, if all goes according to plan, will become the country's first openly gay Prime Minister.

    Buzzfeed reports that Bettel unexpectedly led Luxembourg's centrist Democratic Party to its best-ever election results last month, earning him the right to form a government for the small, affluent European country.

    But first, Bettel wanted to make sure he received his partner's blessing before taking the next steps:

    "My partner [Destenay Gauthier, below] is a bit scared. I try to be at home most nights as we're a team but the obligations [of being Prime Minister] mean I will have to go abroad a lot. I asked him the day after the election whether it was OK to form a government and he supported me. If he had said no I would have to think whether I could accept it or not – I didn't want to break up a relationship! We're a team for good times and bad."

    Bettel says gay visibility for elected officials has greatly improved since he first stepped into the political spotlight in the late 1990s:

    Bettel:Gauthier"I once had a [female politician] who said I was more lady than her. But society is changing and what would be considered as not normal is fully normal nowadays. You can live your life as yourself and be considered as you are – not because you look like a politician who is married and with children."

    Bettel also spoke briefly about his policy goals as Prime Minister, including improving Luxembourg's economy and legalizing gay marriage next year.

  • 14. jpmassar  |  November 13, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Luxembourg! legalizing gay marriage next year. About time.

    Now to start putting pressure on Andorra…

  • 15. Seth From Maryland  |  November 13, 2013 at 11:06 am

    the previous Luxembourg government had planned to legalize marriage equality this year however the government ended up falling apart and dissolving causing elections so this will happen just it take a little longer

  • 16. Seth From Maryland  |  November 13, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Vietnam has taken its first step toward legalizing marriage equality: VIETNAM: Gay Wedding Ceremonies Legalized, But Not Same-Sex Marriage

    As of yesterday, it's no longer illegal to stage gay weddings or commitment ceremonies in Vietnam.
    The south-eastern Asian country has officially allowed same-sex couples to organize weddings and have the right to live together. While the unions won’t be legally recognized, gay rights campaigners believe it is a large step on the path to equal marriage. The Government has taken this step after two fines were handed out to gay and lesbian couples who chose to have a marriage ceremony in the southern provinces of Kien Giang and Ca Mau.
    Last week Vietnam's National Assembly began hearings on removing the ban on same-sex marriage, the first step towards legalization.

  • 17. Seth From Maryland  |  November 13, 2013 at 11:24 am

    The good News just keeps getting better:In Virginia Democrat state Senator Mark Herring has won the Attorney General spot making it a clean sweep deomcrats in the race.

  • 18. Eric Koszyk  |  November 13, 2013 at 11:32 am

    There will still be an automatic recount but his lead should hold.

  • 19. Seth From Maryland  |  November 13, 2013 at 11:37 am

    yep this very good news for our court case there ,if we win the governor and att gen can drop the appeal , then there's no the opposition can do because they won't have standing

  • 20. Larry  |  November 13, 2013 at 11:52 am

    That would be good news for Virginia couples, bad news for couples in other states who want a broad Supreme Court ruling. The Nevada lawsuit may not work because Nevada has domestic partnerships already, giving courts a narrow way to rule in our favor..

  • 21. Seth From Maryland  |  November 13, 2013 at 11:57 am

    don't forget the Michigan case which , which is very likely to be ruled in our favor , the Michigan is the case i want to make it to the supreme court first anyway , that has real chance at winning

  • 22. Stefan  |  November 13, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    Given the amount of cases bound for the Supreme Court, several of them will reach it soon enough.

  • 23. Michelle Evans  |  November 13, 2013 at 11:26 am

    I have to chime in about the order of states with regard to marriage equality. At the end of the article it states two clear definitions of how a state is to be counted for marriage equality. Illinois does not yet possess either of these two criteria, whereas as of this afternoon, Hawaii will. It seems that it is very clear that Hawaii should be recognized as the 14th state with marriage equality on several counts. The legislature has passed the law and soon the governor will sign it. And, within a few weeks the marriages will legally begin.

    In Illinois, the governor has not yet signed the bill into law, and will not do so for another week, so it is clear that Hawaii comes first by that criteria. and once it is signed, it will be February at the earliest and June at the latest that the law would go into effect, months after marriages begin in Hawaii.

    The simplest criteria would be the order in which marriage equality becomes a reality, thus as of December 2, Hawaii is number 14. Number 15 could very well be New Mexico, and then Illinois as 16th in 2014, or 15th if New Mexico drags their feet.

  • 24. Tommy  |  November 13, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Actually, New Jersey was number 14. Hawaii, Illinois, and New Mexico would take us to 17.

  • 25. Michelle Evans  |  November 13, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    My apologies, you are definitely correct about New Jersey.

  • 26. Alan948  |  November 13, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Michelle Evans: "The simplest criteria would be the order in which marriage equality becomes a reality"

    I completely agree that that's the best criterion.

    Michelle: "thus as of December 2, Hawaii is number 14."

    Ack! Unless you've perfected time travel, never word predictions about the future as statements of fact. I think you meant to say "as of December 2, Hawaii will most likely be number 15. It could be number 16 if New Mexico gets there first."

    Edited to add: By the way, even with this pretty clear-cut criterion, there's still the problem of whether to count the date marriages begin in one county, or the date they become available in all counties. If you go by any county, New Mexico was number 14 (or maybe even number 2 if you count the marriages in 2004). In California, the first marriages were in 2004, the first marriages that weren't later nullified were in 2008, the first marriages after the hiatus were on June 28, 2013 (available only in 3 counties), and the date they became available statewide, presumably for good, was July 1, 2013, making the state tied for 10th with Delaware.

  • 27. Bruno71  |  November 13, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    New Mexico: Marriage equality means the equal dispensation of marriage rights to all couples regardless of gender, location, or other irrelevant factors. That currently a same-sex couple in Farmington cannot get married in their county, but must travel to another, is not equality (and we'll recall that only one county issued licenses in 2004 as well). New Mexico will have equality after the ruling and probably be #17.

    California: Tougher question, but for me, it's the 2nd state. Since proposition 8 was an unconstitutional action, that period of time between Nov. 2008 and July 2013 was a counterfeit prohibition period. Although California did not have equality during that time, it was certainly the 2nd state to have enacted equality. It just happened to be the 1st (and so far only) state to roll it back for a time.

  • 28. sfbob  |  November 13, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    I like the way you think Bruno.

    As far as any other state rolling back a marriage equality law, I think we can safely say that will never be permitted to happen. Refusing to grant a right is a tough enough feat, withdrawing a right previously granted would most certainly subject any law doing that to at least intermediate scrutiny. There is ample evidence that when it comes to marriage, it's really unlikely that any state would be able to show compelling reasons for such an action.

  • 29. Dr. Z  |  November 13, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    Oregon is now in the same boat. As of October 15, same sex marriages are recognized in Oregon for all local, state and federal purposes except that you can't get the paperwork here. It's like when you want to buy a brand of alcohol that's not carried by the state run store – legal to posess, but not legal to purchase. Mark my words, the state DOMA law won't survive to election day 2014.

  • 30. Eric  |  November 13, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    I totally agree, the metric should be when the harm actually ends (equal protection and due process are recognized), not when the government decides to end the on going harm at a future date, thus continuing the harm until then.

  • 31. Bruno71  |  November 13, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    This isn't a bad way to go, considering there's a chance (even if it's ever so slight) that Hawaii's start date could be pushed back by a court stay.

  • 32. MightyAcorn  |  November 13, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Yeah, don't count your chickens before the check clears the bank, or something to that effect.

  • 33. Mike in Baltimore  |  November 13, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    If the criteria used by Jacob is the ONLY criteria to be used in determining when a state has Marriage Equality, then Maine cannot be included.

    Marriage Equality arrived in Maine by an election, which is NOT by 'legislative action', and was NOT a 'court action'.

    If the above criteria are to be used, and ONLY those criteria are to be used, then knock Maine out of all calculations, even though Marriage Equality arrived in the state on December 29, 2012. And Washington state and Maryland had to turn back election challenges to the laws, which (especially in Washington state) delayed the effective date of Marriage Equality. If the election had not gone the way we wanted in either state, Marriage Equality would not now be available in Washington state and/or Maryland.

    And it might be easier if 'states' is not used, but 'jurisdictions'. Otherwise if the word 'state' is used, the user is omitting the District of Columbia, which began allowing Marriage Equality on March 9, 2010, the 6th jurisdiction to do so, and the destination for many hundreds, if not thousands, of people from Maryland (before Maryland had Marriage Equality) and Virginia couples.

    Besides, DC has about the same population as Delaware, about 2/3 the population of Vermont, and more population than Wyoming. (This discussion shows that many people [knowingly or not] show discrimination towards DC, politically, but that is an argument for another day.)

  • 34. Bethany  |  November 13, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    Who cares? All that counts is equality!

  • 35. Eric  |  November 13, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    I don't know about Maine, but in California, the initiative process is legislative action by the People.

  • 36. Mike in Baltimore  |  November 14, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    In Maine, it is not considered anything but action by the people by election.

    Not everything is similar to California. For instance, Maryland is one of a very few, if not the only state, that requires the Speaker of the House, Senate Majority Leader AND the Governor to sign legislation for it to become effective. In California, as in most states, all it takes is the signature of the Governor.

    And in 2012, the legislatures in both Washington state AND Maryland passed Marriage Equality, but the anti-Equality people gathered enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot. Fortunately, the electorate voted in favor of Marriage Equality. Otherwise, even though the legislature had passed it, Marriage Equality would not now be available in those two states. And in Maryland, the highest court in the state had ruled (several years ago) that Marriage Equality was not required by the state constitution. Thus, even though the state's highest court had ruled and the legislature passed a bill, Marriage Equality did not happen until the people voted in an election. In fact, in Washington state, the implementation date of the legislatively passed legislation was delayed until after the people voted.

    Was it legislative action or a final court order that resulted in Marriage Equality in Washington state and Maryland? (In Maryland, especially, there is no initiative process similar to California's. The only thing that the electorate in Maryland can do is approve, or reject legislative action. And they can only vote on legislative action if enough signatures are gathered to get the issue on the ballot. There is NO 'initiative process' like what was used in Maine for action in Maryland, just the equivalent to a 'veto'.)

    In other words, what can be done in California is not necessarily the same that can be done in other jurisdictions.

    And remember, California and 48 other states have bicameral legislatures. In Nebraska, the legislature is a single chamber, aka unicameral. In that respect, Nebraska is NOT similar to California.

  • 37. Dr. Z  |  November 13, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    It's meaningless to debate this topic unless we can agree on why we're counting in the first place.

    If it's a matter of bragging rights, then the date that matters is when the first licenses were issued.

    If it's about the historical narrative, then what matters is which year did the struggle take place; and then only to the extent of placing the states into context. DE, RI, HI, IL, NJ were in the class of 2013. MD, although it technically didn't start issuing licenses until Jan 1 2013, actually belongs to the class of 2012 because its battle was fought and won last election day. MN is a special case that could be grouped with either the 2012 or 2013 battles. The particular order within 2012 or 2013 doesn't matter from a historical perspective. However, a few states were decisive victories: MA, NH (defeating the repeal effort), IA (first midwest victory), NY, CA (in 2013).

  • 38. Dr. Z  |  November 13, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    Oh, and of course election day 2012: WA, MD, ME and MN.

  • 39. Mike in Baltimore  |  November 14, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    You might want to review the events of MN.

    The election turned back an attempt to impose a Constitutional Amendment against Marriage Equality. It was legislative action in 2013 that repealed the law that, in effect, prohibited Marriage Equality. In fact, Marriage Equality didn't become effective in Minnesota until August 1, 2013 (AFTER it became effective in California and Delaware, and the same date that Marriage Equality became effective in Rhode Island).

    And in Washington state and Maryland, yes the legislature passed Marriage Equality, but the anti's gathered enough signatures to place the question on the ballot, thus delaying the effective date of Marriage Equality (especially in Washington state). So was it a) legislative action that brought Marriage Equality to the state, or b) a vote by the people that defeated the attempt to 'veto' the legislative action? Remember, if the anti's had not gathered enough signatures, Marriage Equality would not have been on the ballot, and Marriage Equality would have begun in Washington state 90 days after the end of the legislative session.

    And in an historical sense, the actual date matters. For instance, in 1066 it mattered that King Harold II FIRST had to battle the Norwegian invaders in Northern England, THEN march South to fight William of Normandy (aka William the Conqueror). If Harold had not had to first battle the Norwegian invaders, those invaders would have had to face William of Normandy.

    And don't forget that King Edward the Confessor also died in 1066 (in January), otherwise it would have been him who led the troops against Harald Hardrada, then William (if he had defeated the Norwegians – he probably would have, but then again…).

    The sequence of events is just as important as the year it happened.

  • 40. Eric Koszyk  |  November 13, 2013 at 11:28 am

    And a twitter feed for the signing ceremony (in case you're at work and can't watch the live feed):

  • 41. davep  |  November 13, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Watching the live feed of the Hawaii signing ceremony now. It's very moving. If you can, I encourage you to watch.

  • 42. Rich  |  November 13, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    Yes, this was a truly moving and powerful ceremony. It's now a done deal! Aloha!, world.

  • 43. Michael  |  November 14, 2013 at 12:50 am

    Wonderful day in Hawaii, but a shame that those promoting the evil anti-gay agenda became so lawless and made so many threats that such tight security measures had to be implemented. They have stained Aloha.

Having technical problems? Visit our support page to report an issue!