Marriage Equality Battle Turns to Hawaii This Week; Officials Weigh in on Related 9th Circuit Cases


The marriage equality focus turns to Hawaii this week as Governor Neil Abercrombie calls a special session of the legislature to consider a marriage equality bill. Abercrombie has said he would not hold such a session unless the votes were there.

Ad_hawaiiStill, expect religious right-wingers to do all they can to derail it. As we saw yesterday, NOM is already running ads against it in the Aloha state.

Reuters reports:

The debate over same-sex matrimony has long divided the "Aloha State," and the special session will be greeted by rival demonstrations. On Sunday, proponents plan an "All You Need is Love" rally in Honolulu and opponents will follow with a "Let the People Decide" gathering on Monday.

In recent days, opponents of the bill have gathered on the sides of volcanic mountain highways and dense urban streets with signs saying "Let the People Vote on Marriage."

"They're starting House hearings on Halloween, when many of those opposed will be busy with their families, so we're telling people to bring their kids trick-or-treating at the state capitol," said Jim Hochberg, president of Hawaii Family Advocates, the leading group opposing the governor's bill.

Donald Bentz, head of the gay rights group Equality Hawaii, said he was hopeful the bill would pass and said it was bad policy to allow voters – rather than lawmakers or the courts – to decide civil rights questions.

AbercrombieAbercrombie said last month that it is time: "Every variation on a view with regard to the issue of marriage and equitable treatment for those engaged in marriage has been aired, has been analyzed, has been discussed.No one has been left out or has been marginalized in the process to this point."

On another front, there are cases pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals involving Hawaii and Nevada, and lots of people, including Abercrombie, are weighing in on those.

Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade explains:

The cases before the court are Sevick v. Sandoval, a federal lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal last year seeking marriage equality in Nevada, and Jackson v. Abercrombie, a similar lawsuit filed by private attorneys seeking to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage in Hawaii. Both are on appeal before the Ninth Circuit after district courts in those states affirmed that the bans on same-sex marriage were constitutional.

Abercrombie, who previously said he wouldn’t defend the ban on same-sex marriage in court, submitted an opening brief from his lawyers on Oct. 18 that seeks permission to file an additional, more lengthy document because the lawsuit a “landmark civil rights case.”

But the 112-page brief makes initial arguments about why the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, arguing that it fails any rational basis test and laws related to sexual orientation should be subject to heightened scrutiny.

CoakleyAlso weighing in on the two cases, which are the most advanced federal lawsuits on marriage equality and the closest to the Supreme Court, were 14 attorneys general led by Massachusetts AG Martha Coakley, along with Calfiornia AG Kamala Harris, and Delaware AG Beau Biden:

The 32-page argues that the bans on same-sex marriage in Hawaii and Nevada are unconstitutional, among other reasons, because including same-sex couples into the institution of marriage enhances state interest and the current laws aren’t rationally related to interests in procreation or child-rearing.

“Since the founding, states have sanctioned marriages to support families, strengthen communities, and facilitate governance,” the brief states. “Because same-sex couples form families, raise children, and avail themselves of the benefits and abide by the obligations of marriage in the same manner as different-sex couples, the states’ interest in marriage are furthered by allowing same-sex couples to marry.”

Adds the AP: "Coakley led the filing of the amicus brief on behalf of Massachusetts and 13 other states, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia."