HAWAII STATE COMMISSION URGES LEGISLATURE
TO LEGALIZE MARRIAGE FOR SAME-GENDER COUPLES
- National Freedom to Marry Coalition Hails Historic Step -
HONOLULU, Dec. 8, 1995 -- In an historic first, a Hawaii state
government-created commission, specifically charged with studying
the freedom to marry that is denied same-gender couples, forwarded
a report to the state legislature today recommending Hawaii marriage
laws be amended "to allow two people regardless of their gender to
The report by the Hawaii Commission on Sexual Orientation and the
Law, whose members were appointed by the governor, will now go to the
state legislature. The commission was created by the legislature in
June, 1994, to determine how best to address the ways in which same-
gender couples are affected by not being able to marry.
"After months of intense research and witness testimony, a
government body has finally concluded that there is no legitimate reason
for the state to continue refusing civil marriage licenses to same-gender
couples who want to make the commitment of marriage," said Rich Tafel of
Log Cabin Republicans. Log Cabin Republicans is a member of the National
Freedom to Marry Coalition, a broad alliance of city, state and national
gay and non-gay groups across the country.
"They looked at all the arguments for and against same-gender
marriage and concluded it's wrong for government to say 'no' to people
saying 'I do,'" said Tafel.
The commission was created in response to a landmark lawsuit
challenging the denial of civil marriage licenses to same-gender couples.
In May, 1993, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the "same-gender
restriction" on marriage appears to violate the state constitution. The
Court held that unless the state can identify a "compelling" justification
for discriminating, it must stop. The case, Baehr v. Lewin, is now before
the lower court, where the couples are represented by co-counsel Dan Foley
of the Hawaii Equal Rights Marriage Project (HERMP) and Evan Wolfson of
Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund.
"The commission's report further strengthens our court challenge,
clearly illustrating that the state has no 'compelling' reason to deny
same-gender couples the freedom to marry," said Tom Ramsey, Co-Chair of
HERMP. "If the legislature fails to end the discriminatory restriction on
marriage, we're still confident that the Hawaii Supreme Court will, through
the Baehr v. Lewin Case. It was less than 30 years ago that courts took a
similar stand, ending the ban on interracial marriage."
The landmark report was hailed by leaders of gay and non-gay
organizations nationwide as a key step in educating the public about how
the denial of the freedom to marry harms couples and fosters inequality.
"Many Americans have never thought about marriage in connection
with lesbian and gay people, or even about the reality that same-gender
couples form families that need protection and deserve support," said
Elizabeth Birch, Executive Director of the Human Rights Campaign, a member
of the National Freedom to Marry Coalition. "The commission did its
homework, and looked at equal marriage rights fairly and methodically. We
invite the public, judges, and legislators in the rest of the country to
do the same."
The commission of seven members, headed by highly-respected former
Lt. Gov. Tom Gill, represented a diverse range of views. Its report has
already been editorially endorsed by Hawaii's two leading newspapers.
The National Freedom to Marry Coalition is a broad association of
gay and non-gay local, state and national organizations, working to educate
the public and encourage support for same-gender marriage.