- 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.