June 2000 Update For Marriage Project - Hawaii
December 1990    Two lesbian and one gay couple apply for marriage licenses at the Hawaii State Department of Health.
February 1991    The Hawaii Attorney General denies the licenses because the couples consist of the same gender.
May 1991    Attorney Dan Foley files suit in Hawaii State First Circuit Court alleging that the couples’ rights to privacy and equal protection under Hawaii's Constitution have been violated.
October 1991    At the trial of Baehr v. Lewin, Foley argues that gays and lesbians have been discriminated against historically and are entitled to equal protection, and that sexual orientation is a trait resistant to change. The judge dismisses the case. Foley files an appeal.
May 1993    Hawaii's Supreme Court rules that denying licenses to same-gender partners is discriminatory and that, unless there is a "compelling state interest,” same-gender marriage must be allowed. The victory surprises everyone.
January to June 1994    All language regarding procreation as a basis for marriage was found prejudicial against the handicapped, elderly, and others in 1984 and stricken from Hawaii's law books, but in this legislative session, procreation is declared a reason to discriminate against lesbians and gays. A law is passed prohibiting the marriages and creating a commission to study domestic partnerships.
Summer 1994    Foley reveals that the law may actually work in the plaintiffs' favor, because procreation won't meet the strict "compelling interest" standard set by Hawaii's Supreme Court.
August 1995    A study in the Southern California Law Review reports that within 5 years of allowing the couples to wed, the "first mover" state would reap nearly $4 billion.
December 1995    The Commission on Sexual Orientation and the Law mandated by the legislature recommends that same gender marriages be recognized. The commission had been expected to simply endorse domestic partnerships.
September 1996    Circuit Court Judge Chang hears the "compelling state interest" for not licensing same-gender marriages. Attorneys for the three couples take the high moral ground and defeat the state's logic. President Clinton signs the Defense of Marriage Act. The new federal law, designed to keep other states from having to recognize marriages made in Hawaii, is probably unconstitutional.
November 1996    Hawaii residents go to bed thinking they've voted down a Constitutional Convention. They wake to find the attorney general advising that blank ballots don't count as "no's", contrary to what some election officials had advised. A Constitutional Convention will be held and same-gender marriage, say pundits, will dominate the proceedings. A suit is filed with the Hawaii Supreme Court to overturn the opinion of the attorney general.
December 6, 1996    In an unprecedented victory, Circuit Court Judge Chang orders the state to permit same-gender couples to marry, but the health department does not issue the licenses.  Same-gender marriage is legal in Hawaii. The next day Judge Chang stays the order, pending appeal.
March 1997    The Hawaii Supreme Court rules that blank ballots do count as "no" votes: a Constitutional Convention won't be held!
May 1997    Hawaii's legislators bow to pressure from conservative religious groups and pass a bill putting a constitutional amendment to the voters on Nov. 3, 1998: shall the legislature have the power to reserve marriage to opposite sex couples?  At the same time Hawaii becomes the first state to offer many domestic-partnership benefits to same-gender couples under the rubric of “reciprocal beneficiaries.” Gays and lesbians move from third to second class citizenship.
Summer 1997    Hawaii’s Attorney General reverses her earlier official opinions (given to the legislature) and invalidates health care benefits for “reciprocal beneficiaries” in private industry.
August 1997    Advocates for holding a Constitutional Convention appeal the Hawaii Supreme Court's decision to the U. S. Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The federal court initially rules that a new vote must beheld. Probable date: Election Day 1998. That decision is itself appealed.
December 1997    Hawaii’s Supreme Court dismisses the motion to intervene in the Baehr case which had been made by eight legislators.  The eight legislators were represented by Pat Robertson’s legal team.
March 1998    The U.S. Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rules that the Hawaii Supreme Court decision about the Constitutional Convention vote was indeed correct. There does not have to be a Constitutional Convention vote on the November 1998 ballot.  Justice wins!
Spring 1998    Hawaii’s Attorney General reverses more of her 1997 advice to the legislature and invalidates health benefits for “reciprocal beneficiaries” who are state employees.  In the meantime, New Jersey’s attorney general reviews the court record of the Baehr case and concedes that gays and lesbians can adopt children as a couple.  This important concession prevents the breaking up of households upon the accidental death of the sole “official” parent.
April 1998    Fearing religious political extremists, the legislature puts the question of holding a Constitutional Convention on the November 1998 ballot.  Good sense loses!
Fall 1998     Opponents of same gender marriage spend millions to get a "yes" vote on a proposed constitutional amendment and to call a constitutional convention.  Christian extremists groups lead the way, with major support from the Mormon and Catholic churches.  A broad-based coalition forms Protect Our Constitution to oppose constitutional change.  The coalition includes many labor unions, the Japanese American Citizens League, and the Hawaii League of Women voters.  Per voter the Hawaii general election is the most expensive campaign ever fought in the United States.
November 1998  On November 3rd, voters of Hawaii approve the constitutional amendment that gives the legislature the power to reserve marriage to opposite sex couples.  The vote is 70% to 30%.  At the same time they reject a call for a constitutional convention by a similarly large margin.  While the amendment is very bad news, it does not overturn the equal protection aspects of the Baehr case.  The defeat of a constitutional convention is great news, because it limits the opportunities for additional constitutional mischief
December 1998  Hawaii's Supreme Court calls for briefs from both sides in the Baehr case as to the effects, prospective and retrospective, of the new constitutional amendment.  The state must file within 30 days; then Dan Foley has 30 days to respond to the state's brief; finally, the state has 10 days to respond to Foley's brief.  The briefing will end by early February of 1999.
May 1999  Governor Cayetano introduced in January some domestic partnership legislation and a bill banning discrimination in housing and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation.  Both are defeated, as well as a hate crimes bill.  Also, no new anti-same gender laws are passed.  See Freiburg.
August 1999  Hawaii's Supreme Court issues a minute order saying that there will be no public arguments in the Baehr case.  This is an indication that they have all the information they need to make a ruling.
December 1999  On Dec. 9, 1999, Hawaii's Supreme Court dismissed the Baehr case being made moot by the constitutional amendment which passed in November 1998.  As the local media put it, same sex marriage is dead in Hawaii.  However, the court left open the equal protection aspects of their earlier decisions.  The lawyer for the couples in the Baehr case, Dan Foley, predicts lawsuits to chip away at each individual right of marriage one by one.
June 2000  Hawaii's domestic partnership status is called "reciprocal beneficiary" and confers numerous rights---but not health insurance via a partner's employer.  Return to the main page for links to the exact language of over 160 references in Hawaii law to "reciprocal beneficiaries".  Vermont has passed a more comprehensive status for gay and lesbian couples called "civil unions".  Vermont has also introduced the "reciprocal beneficiary" status to grant some rights of mutual care to blood relatives.  California is considering a few domestic partnership rights piecemeal---with each right a separate bill.

Make checks payable to:
Marriage Project - Hawaii
P.O. Box 11690, Honolulu, H1 96828
(A charitable organization, responsible for the Hawaii marriage case &
public education; application for tax-deductible status is pending)
Web site:
Phone: (808) 942-3737

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