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Ruling energizes civil-union advocates

Both supporters and opponents look to a possible Supreme Court decision in the case

By Leila Fujimori

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Aug 05, 2010

A federal judge's ruling yesterday overturning California's Proposition 8 banning gay marriage has infused hope in Hawaii proponents of civil unions and same-sex marriage and disappointment in those opposed.

Francis Oda:
Only a Supreme Court
ruling will affect the
state, says the Hawaii
Family Forum member

"Today's ruling in San Francisco hopefully is the beginning of the end of bans on same-sex marriage," Alan Spector, co-chairman of Equality Hawaii, a civil-unions advocacy group, said yesterday.

"If we win at the Supreme Court level, that would then reverse the 1998 constitutional amendment in Hawaii that gives the Legislature the right to ban same-sex marriage. It certainly gives us hope, and it demonstrates once again that the (U.S.) Constitution is on our side just as the Hawaii Constitution is on our side."

The ruling comes on the heels of Gov. Linda Lingle's July 6 veto killing a civil-unions bill, which would have given same-sex and heterosexual couples who enter into civil unions the same rights, benefits and responsibilities as marriage under state law.

"We are certainly disappointed in the ruling," said Walter Yoshimitsu, chancellor of the Roman Catholic Church in Hawaii.

Tambry Young:
She and her partner
of 30 years are look-
ing forward to more
such court decisions

He said marriage is not a civil right, and therefore not protected under the Constitution. "Wherever same-sex marriages were approved, it was not by the voting population but by courts," he said.

Tambry Young received a call from her partner of 30 years with the news of the ruling.

"We were both happy," she said. "We are really looking forward to more of this type of decisions taking place that really shows all families are important. That's what we see that this decision is saying, that all families need to be recognized, and diverse families should all be treated fairly and equally."

Young said they have a 10-year-old daughter "who needs to feel safe and protected."

Young and her partner, Suzanne King, are among six same-sex couples who filed a lawsuit against Lingle and the state July 29 in Circuit Court, alleging Hawaii has failed to provide rights to same-sex couples equal to opposite-sex couples.

Jennifer Pizer, senior counsel for Lambda Legal, who with the American Civil Liberties Union in Hawaii represents the couples, said, "This decision is quite helpful in explaining why sexual orientation discrimination should be seen as a form of sex discrimination."

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's analysis that the harms inflicted on lesbian and gay couples must be justified with a compelling government interest is likely to help in the Young v. Lingle case, Pizer said.

Francis Oda, chairman of the board of Hawaii Family Forum, which opposes gay marriage, said: "The decision really needs to be made at the Supreme Court level to affect Hawaii. It's much too contentious and significant an issue to be dealt with at a state-by-state level."






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