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Court Ruling Moves Hawaii a Little Bit Closer to Gay Marriages

May 7, 1993

HONOLULU (AP) _ Hawaii’s Supreme Court ruled the state’s ban on gay marriages may be unconstitutional, a finding that moves Hawaii closer to becoming the first state to alllow such unions.

The court ruled Wednesday that the state must prove the ban is constitutional and must show a ″compelling state interest″ for retaining it. The case goes back to a lower court for further consideration.

Daniel Foley, a lawyer for two lesbian couples and a gay male couple seeking marriage licenses, said the cause is all but won. He said what the state is being asked to prove is an ″almost impossible burden.″

However, state Attorney General Robert Marks said that gay marriages are ″not a done deal″ yet. He said his office has not decided how to proceed.

Justice Steven Levinson, writing for the majority in the 3-2 decision, declared the ban is ″presumed to be unconstitutional.″ The state cannot base its recognition of marriage on the gender of either person involved, he said.

In a dissent, Justices Walter Heen and Yoshimi Hayashi warned the ruling will have ″far-reaching and grave repercussions on the finances and policies of the governments and industry of this state and all other states in the country.″

Because each state recognizes marriages performed in another state, couples who get married in Hawaii would be considered married everywhere else, too.

That could entitle gay partners to the same health benefits and tax breaks available to heterosexual couples.

Foley said that he expects the lower court to rule in favor of his clients in the next few months, and that gay marriages will be allowed in Hawaii within two years, after the Supreme Court gets the case back on appeal and issues its final ruling.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii called on the state Thursday to drop its efforts to maintain the ban.

″Instead of prolonging the history of intolerance any longer, we believe that the most appropriate response would be to reconcile state policy with the clear language and intent of the court’s decision,″ it said in a statement.

Deputy Attorney General Sonia Faust, in arguing before the Supreme Court against same-sex marriage, said legislators are entitled to prohibit such marriages based on morality or other reasons.

Joe Melilio and his partner, Pat Lagon, who are plaintiffs in the case, said they are ready to shop for wedding clothes. ″We didn’t do this just for us,″ Melilio said. ″We hope it benefits others.″

Ninia Baehr said she and her partner, Genora Dancel, also plaintiffs, plan to marry in a very private ceremony. ″We’ve had to be very public to win this case.″ she said. ″The victory belongs to the gay community, but the wedding is ours.″

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