September 30, 1996

Historic Hawaii Marriage Trial


Historic Hawaii Marriage Trial
Summar Offered by Plaintiffs' Co-Counsels
Dan Foley, Partington & Foley (526-9500)
Evan Wolfson, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund


The case:  Under the equal protection clause of the State's constitution, the Hawaii Supreme Court found that denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples is sex discrimination.  It remanded the case to lower court requiring the State either show a "compelling reason," (not just any reason) for this discrimination, or stop discriminating.

Burden of proof:  Rests solely on the defendant, the State of Hawaii.  Plaintiffs have no burden.

"Compelling reason:"  This is the highest burden of proof.

Trial setting:  Circuit Court of the State of Hawaii, Judge Kevin S. C. Chang, Sept. 10 - 20, 1996.


What the State Attempted to Show:  The State chose as its compelling justification for the discrimination in marriage the proposition that keeping same-sex couples from civil marriage somehow helps children develop "optimally."  The State also claimed that two biological parents are the "best" for raising a child.

What the State's Evidence Actually Showed:  All State witnesses conceded that keeping same-sex couples from marrying
does nothing to help children of heterosexual families, while at the same time hurting the children of same-sex families by denying them the legal and economic protections, as well as the social support and stability, that come with civil marriage.

The State's witnesses made further concessions in testimony by agreeing that:

  1. same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt and raise children; 
  2. gay men and lesbians raise happy, healthy and well adjusted children just as well as heterosexual parents; 
  3. civil marriage brings important protections to all types of families whether they have children or not; 
  4. civil marriage would help the children of same-sex couples.
The State's psychological experts, Pruett and Merrill, agreed that the most important aspects in optimal child development within any type of family are the qualities of parenting---such as love, nurturing, guidance, protection---not the parents' sexual orientation, gender or biological relationship to the child, as asserted by the State.


What the Plaintiffs Needed to Show:  Plaintiffs had no burden of proof, but nevertheless presented evidence which conclusively refuted the State's claims.

What the Plaintiffs' Evidence Showed:

The Plaintiffs called four expert witnesses who, unlike the State's witness, are recognized by their peers and colleagues as the leading national and Hawaii experts int their fields:

Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., University of Washington, sociologist regarded as a leading national expert on family, couples, gender and sex; auth of American Couples; Charlotte Patterson, Ph.D., University of Virginia, psychologist regarded as the leading national expert on the development of children, especially children of same-sex couples; David Brodzinsky, Ph.D., Rutgers University, research and clinical psychologist regarded as the nation's leading expert on adoption and and non-biological parenting; Robert James Bidwell, M.D., Director -- Dept. of Pediatrics, Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children in Honolulu; practicing pediatrician; University of Hawaii School of Medicine Professor; heads the Pacific's most comprehensive pediatric unit.

All of the plaintiffs' experts concurred with the State's witnesses that the most important determinant in raising a happy, healthy and well adjusted child is the quality of parenting the child receives in her or his home -- not the parent's gender, sexual orientation or biological relationship.

The plaintiffs' experts all agreed that marriage would promote the optimal development of children in same-sex families just as it can for adoptive, step-parent or biological families.

The plaintiff's experts all testified that marriage for same-sex couples would strengthen the institution of marriage and society, as well as provide for the optimal development of children in these homes, in direct contradiction to the State's proposition.  They also saw no reason, based on their professional opinions, why the State would deny same-sex couples the right to marry.

All the experts, whether testifying for the plaintiffs or State, agreed that there are many reasons people marry other than for the purpose of having or raising children.

All of the plaintiffs' experts rejected the State's claim that there is one "best" type of family.  In their view, the claim is unsupported by the evidence and offensive to the many types of families that exist in Hawaii and the nation.

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