Lambda Legal and the ACLU filed a
lawsuit Thursday on behalf of six gay couples asking for equal
marriage-like rights in Hawaii.
Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii (ACLU)
threatened it would file the lawsuit if Governor Linda Lingle vetoed
a civil unions bill for gay couples. Lingle rejected the bill on
Jennifer C. Pizer, national marriage
project director for Lambda Legal, said Lingle's veto was “a sad
surrender to political expediency that does not support business or
family interests, but damages them.”
The groups are returning to court after
winning a landmark 1993 Hawaii Supreme Court case that struck down a
law that limited marriage to heterosexual couples. But in approving
the nation's first constitutional amendment that defines marriage as
a heterosexual union, voters overturned the decision in 1998.
The amendment, however, left the door
open for other forms of legal recognition for gay and lesbian
couples, something gay activists have since urged lawmakers to act
The new lawsuit seeks the benefits and
responsibilities of marriage for gay couples without asking the court
for the titles of “marriage” or “civil unions.” The groups
say the Hawaii Constitution prohibits sex discrimination.
Speaking to the AP, Garret Hashimoto,
chairman of the Hawaii Christian Coalition, a group that strongly
opposed the civil unions measure, said gay activists calling the
right to marry a civil right is insulting.
He said legal recognition of gay unions
was not about rights but sex: “It's behavior. It's not different
than smokers or drinkers.”
Pizer said her group would drop the
lawsuit if the next governor – Lingle is term-limited – signs a
civil unions law.
The case is expected to reach the
Hawaii Supreme Court.