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State drops defense of former law outlawing gay marriage

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State Attorney General David Louie announced on Monday that the state would stop defending its old marriage law barring gay couples from getting married.

Gay couples had sued the state in federal court challenging the law as unconstitutional. In a divided response, Gov. Neil Abercrombie chose not to defend the law in court, but the state Department of Health did.

A gay marriage law was approved last year after a special session of the Legislature, making the federal lawsuit largely moot.

“Last year, Hawaii changed the law to ensure marriage equality for same-sex couples,” Louie said in a statement. “Its passage has turned the page in history on the issue of discrimination. There are no longer grounds to defend the previous law.”

State Health Director Dr. Linda Rosen will stop defending the 2011 case, Jackson v. Abercrombie, according to the state Attorney General’s office.

“I applaud the decision of the Attorney General, as the law has changed for the better, and it is no longer necessary to perpetuate discrimination,” Rosen said in a statement. “The Hawaii Department of Health has been pleased to implement the new law and help more than 1,400 same-sex couples obtain marriage licenses over the past five months.” 

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