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Oahu churches file suit to block civil unions law

By Ken Kobayashi

LAST UPDATED: 8:50 p.m. HST, Dec 29, 2011

Two Oahu churches have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block the new state law that allows civil unions for same-sex couples.

The law takes effect Sunday.

Emmanuel Temple in Wahiawa and Lighthouse Outreach Center Assembly of God in Waipahu contend that the civil union statute violates their rights under federal civil rights law and constitutional freedom of religion protections.

In the lawsuit filed Wednesday, the churches said the law, Act 1, exempts the churches from performing civil unions, but not from refusing to rent their church premises for same-sex ceremonies and receptions.

The Christian churches, which are represented by Honolulu attorney Shawn Luiz, said they should not be held liable for fines or money damages if they refuse to allow those activities on church grounds

Joshua Wisch, spokesman for the attorney general's office, said they will oppose the churches' request for a restraining order that would block the implementation of the law.

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