Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Last Minute Marriage Preparations; Will Hawaii Be Ringing Its Wedding Bells for Gay Marriages This Year?

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Last Minute Marriage Preparations; Will Hawaii Be Ringing Its Wedding Bells for Gay Marriages This Year?

Article excerpt

Will Hawaii be ringing its wedding bells for gay marriages this year?

Last year Hawaii presented lesbians and gay men with the kind of Christmas gift activists once never dreamed they would receive: a court ruling clearing the way for same-sex marriage. This holiday season gay men and lesbians could get an even bigger gift from the Aloha State--the out-and-out ability to get married.

"People should expect a decision in our favor," says Daniel Foley, the attorney who brought me suit by three couples against Hawaii's ban on same-sex unions. "Even the legislature and our opponents agree that the court is likely to rule in favor of the couples."

The Hawaii supreme court heard the case, an appeal of a lower-court ruling, in June. Unlike other courts that have specific sessions during which to rule, the supreme court has no deadline to meet for its ruling. However, most observers and participants believe the ruling will come in the near future.

"We're very hopeful that the court is going to rule soon on the last stage of the case," says Evan Wolfson, head of the Marriage Project at Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and cocounsel on the case. "`Soon' could mean December and possibly earlier--but almost certainly this winter."

To overturn the lower-court ruling that opened the way for gay marriage, the supreme court would in essence have to reverse its own opinion. In 1993 the justices indicated that the plaintiffs had established a strong case for gender discrimination in current marriage laws. The state had unsuccessfully argued that same-sex unions would be harmful to children, but in its appeal the state "is not appealing any of the findings of fact" from last year's decision, says Foley.

Once the state supreme court does rule, says Foley, "then we have marriage." Opponents of gay marriage have few ways of preventing it from taking place. The legislature failed this year to revise the state constitution to ban same-sex unions outright. The best chance anti-gay-marriage forces have now is campaigning for a constitutional convention. A case considering a ballot measure calling for one is moving through the courts.

However, even if it is approved, the convention could not be held quickly enough to stop marriages from taking place altogether. …

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