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Levinson holds out hope for same-sex marriage legalization

By Ken Kobayashi

LAST UPDATED: 12:01 p.m. HST, Jun 26, 2013

Former Associate Justice Steven Levinson, who wrote the landmark 1993 same-sex marriage ruling that led Congress to pass the Defense of Marriage Act, said this morning he’s “ecstatic” over the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.

Levinson wrote the controlling opinion that paved the way for Hawaii to be the first state to legalize same-sex marriage until a 1998 constitutional amendment negated the ruling.

Levinson’s opinion also sparked fears that same-sex marriage would be legalized and prompted Congress to pass DOMA in 1996.

Levinson said the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling now provides momentum for state lawmakers here to legalize same-sex marriages here.

Hawaii recognizes same-sex civil unions that provides gays and lesbian couples with the same state benefits and rights as married couples.

With the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling, those couples could receive federal marriage benefits if lawmakers allow them to get married here, he said.

“I’m hoping it will provide a huge, tremendous incentive to the legislature to take a simple step to achieve fairness,” he said.

Hawaii’s laws banning same-sex marriages are also subject to a pending federal court challenge contending the statutes are unconstitutional.

Levinson said the high court’s ruling might not have much impact on the Hawaii case.

The majority made it clear that they weren’t deciding whether there is a constitutional right to have same-sex marriages, he said.

In retirement, Levinson has been active in pushing for the legalization of same-sex marriages.

He is a board member for the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, Equality Hawaii and Hawaii United for Marriage.

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