TO: All Media CONTACTS: Dan Foley, Attorney: 526-9500 RE: Equal Rights Carl Varady, ACLU: 545-1722 DATE: June 3, 1993 GLCC Office: 951-7000 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Hawaii supporters of equal rights hailed the May 5 ruling as a victory for all people wishing to end gender-based discrimination. "We're overjoyed and we couldn't be more pleased, and we now expect to prevail ultimately on the issues of gay marriages," said Dan Foley, attorney for the three gay couples who filed the original law suit against the state as part of the Hawaii Equal Rights Marriage Project (HERMP).
The HERMP project began in December of 1990 when three Oahu couples applied for and were denied marriage licenses. The couples then filed a law suit against the State of Hawaii in May of 1991, for denying them the right to marry someone of the same gender. After the suit was dismissed by the state circuit court in September of 1991, before reaching the trial stage, the three couples appealed to the state supreme court.
In its divided opinion (2-1-1), the Hawaii Court stated that the state could no longer base its recognition of marriage on the gender of either person involved and that discrimination by government on the basis of gender will be subject to the same type of exacting scrutiny applied to racial, ethnic and religious discrimination. Discrimination of this type, said the Court, will be presumed invalid and will be declared unconstitutional unless the state can show a compelling public interest served by the regulation and that it has attempted to meet that interest by employing the least restrictive form of regulation.
By applying the same heightened scrutiny to sex-based classifications that it had already applied to racial, ethnic and religious classifications, Hawaii's highest court made plain what many state courts and the U.S. Supreme Court have only implied under the state and federal constitutional guarantee to equal protection: gender discrimination by government will no longer be tolerated. Thus, Baehr v. Lewin also marks a huge victory for the women of Hawaii, as it says that the state court will now view gender-based distinctions with more skepticism that do our federal courts.
"The burden now imposed by the Court on the state is identical to that used by court in the 1960s to overturn regulations that discriminated on the basis of race, including state laws in the South that prohibited interracial marriage," notes ACLU-Hawaii Legal Director, Carl Varady. "We believe the prohibition on same- gender marriage is based on the same prejudice, ignorance and faulty reasoning that previously were used to rationalize state laws banning interracial marriage. No thinking person would try to justify legal sanction against interracial marriage today, and we believe a similar dissipation of prejudice will occur if the courts across the nation strike down the ban on same gender-marriage."
Hawaii's Attorney General, Robert Marks, immediately announced the State's opposition to the ruling. Marks said he will defend the state's marriage statute, "not out of homophobia," but because of "compelling state interests" such as the enormous cost the state would have to shoulder if forced to provide spousal benefits to same-sex partners living together.
"What about how much it cost to pay for benefits of opposite- sex couples?" asks HERMP Plaintiff Joe Melillo, in response to the attorney general's position. "By pointing to the disparity in benefits, the state is only highlighting its own discrimination," Melillo notes. "Last I heard, equal rights were not for sale."
Hawaii's Attorney General also asked that the state's arguments be reconsidered on the grounds that the May 5 decision was unprecedented and that it did not represent the opinion of the majority of the Court. The opinion, issued by Justice Steven Levinson, was also signed by Chief Justice Ronald Moon. A Substitute Associate Justice, James Burns, agreed with the prevailing opinion but suggested that a ban on same-sex marriages might be unconstitutional only if homosexuality was shown to be biologically fated.
A new Associate Justice, Paula Nakayama, agreed with the High Court's refusal to reconsider the case. Nakayama, Levinson and Moon now form a majority of justices agreeing that the origin of one's sexual orientation is not relevant. The only decision left is whether the state can provide compelling reasons to justify its refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The case has been remanded to trial court. A final decision affirming equal rights is expected to be made by the Hawaii Supreme Court within the next two years. HERMP organizers, however, concede that finances may play a vital role in the ability to secure the over 100 legal rights associated with civil marriage. A $25,000 legal bill continues to mount and organizers anticipate the need for much more backing to help educate Hawaii citizens about the positive implications of same-sex marriage.
"We hope everyone takes this opportunity to come out and support this equal rights movement," says Ninia Baehr, HERMP Co- Chair. All contributions will do a lot to keep us moving forward," Baehr notes. (HERMP tax-deductible contributions can be sent to: HERMP c/o GLCC, 1820 University Ave #8, Honolulu, HI 96822).
TO: All Media CONTACTS: Dan Foley, Attorney: 526-9500 RE: Equal Rights Carl Varady, ACLU: 545-1722 DATE: June 1, 1993 GLCC Office: 951-7000 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
If same-sex marriage is legalized in Hawaii, the burden will then be on other states to to justify not recognizing marriages performed in Hawaii. A victory in Hawaii will bring other states one step closer to full recognition of equal rights.
Community members and community-supportive people interested in joining the forefront of the marriage rights pursuit should contact the Hawaii Equal Rights Marriage Project (HERMP), c/o the Gay & Lesbian Community Center (GLCC) of Hawaii, 1820 University Ave. #8, Honolulu, HI 96822, tel: (808) 951-7000. HERMP is an all- volunteer, grassroots, tax-deductible, 501(c)(3) group, striving to promote loving relationships.
After being introduced to each other by Ninia's mother, it was love at first sight for Ninia and Genora, who are going on their fourth year as a couple. Both born in Honolulu, this dynamic couple enjoys kayaking together in the beautiful ocean off their Kailua, Hawaii home.
Genora, after graduating from a local Oahu high school, went to technical school to become the first female engineer to work at a local television station. She now stays extremely busy with two full-time engineering jobs. Next, Genora plans to go back to school in the fall where she will begin pre-med studies.
Ninia, is currently a coordinator of the University of Hawaii Women's Center. Equipped with a master's degree in American Women's Hi(er)story, Ninia uses her talents and education to fight human rights violations both in the U.S. and abroad.
Both Ninia's and Genora's parents are very supportive of their pursuit to marry. "My mother brags about picking out her future daughter-in-law." says Ninia. "Somehow she knew that Genora and I would make a good couple. I guess mother knows best."
Ninia and Genora plan to have an extremely private wedding on the slopes of mount Haleakala on Maui, with just a minister and two witnesses. "The lawsuit was for everyone, but the wedding will be just for us," says Ninia.
Joe Melillo, 46, and his lover, Patrick Lagon, 36, have been a couple for 15 years. Together, they own and operate a successful screen printing company in Honolulu.
Patrick is one of ten children in his family to be born and raised in the islands. After graduating from a local high school, he continued his study of art design, and today handles the artistic side of the business he maintains with Joe.
Joe, a native of New Jersey, made Hawaii his home 28 years ago. His professional endeavors include teaching home economics and culinary arts at the University of Hawaii, working as a chef for the former governor of the Hawaii, setting up a real estate brokerage, and creating his own design company.
Once the state approves their legal marriage, Joe and Pat plan to make their vows to each other immediately. "We're gonna run downtown and grab the first person that will marry us," says Joe. "We've waited too long already."
Eventually, however, Joe and Pat plan to have a big wedding reception with their families, friends, and all the trimmings. The only thing they haven't decided is who should toss the bouquet..
In addition to his private work, Dan teaches as an adjunct Professor of Civil Rights at the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. In the past, Dan served as Counsel to the State Civil Rights Commission in drafting the Commission's Administrative Rules. He also chaired the Hawaii State Bar Association Section on Criminal Justice. The gay and lesbian plaintiffs in this case are indeed fortunate to have such an experienced and committed attorney on their side.
Attn: Letter to the Editor June 2, 1993 Dear Editor:
As you have noted in your publication over the past few months, there are some exciting projects going on throughout the nation to secure the legal rights of same-sex couples. We are writing to share some important news about the forefront of that movement.
With the Hawaii Supreme Court's decision declaring the state ban against same-sex marriage unconstitutional unless the state can prove a compelling state interest, Hawaii is on the crest of being the first state to legally recognize same-sex marriages. With this will come the entitlement of over 100 civil rights and privileges previously denied to lesbian & gay couples; health care benefits, survivorship laws, and tax deductions to name a few.
But to secure these rights we need mainland help. As can be expected the fundamentalist fanatics have landed and are spreading misinformation about the implications of same-sex marriage. We must counter their nonsense.
Readers, equal rights proponents, and community-supportive people interested in joining the forefront of the marriage rights pursuit should contact the Hawaii Equal Rights Marriage Project (HERMP), c/o the Gay & Lesbian Community Center (GLCC) of Hawaii, 1820 University Ave. #8, Honolulu, HI 96822. Or contact HERMP by calling (808) 951-7000. We are an all- volunteer, tax-deductible, 501(c)(3) group. It is really a great grassroots organization, very dedicated to promoting our loving relationships. And Every cent goes directly to legal costs and educational efforts.
Thank you for the continued work of your publication in keeping our community informed and active.
With aloha, Joe Melillo / Patrick Lagon Ninia Baehr / Genora Dancel Plaintiffs, HERMP lawsuit