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Saying “I Do” Amidst Warm Breezes and Tropical Flowers?

Timothy Kincaid

January 21st, 2009

Hawaii is unique in its approach to marriage rights for its gay residents.

In 1993, Hawaii’s Supreme Court was the first to determine that it was discriminatory to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. However, the court did not rule immediately for marriage. The case returned to trial court to allow the State to argue whether its reasons for discrimination were justifiable within the framework of the State Constitution. This allowed anti-gay forces time to push through an amendment to the Constitution which then rendered the decision moot.

In 1998, Hawaii was the first state to adopt a “defense of marriage” constitutional amendment, which passed with 69% approval. But unlike the amendments that followed, this constitutional change did not ban same-sex marriage; rather, it stated “The legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples.”

And so they did.

But Hawaii did not leave its gay people without some small measure of recognition. They created a unique system of recognition with also has not been repeated elsewhere: reciprocal benefits.

Any two adults – whether a romantic couple, siblings, friends, or any other configuration – can register for a reciprocal beneficiary relationship and receive such benefits as hospital visitation, and healthcare decisionmaking. However, unlike marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships, these are not viewed as a single legal entity and there seem to be no obligations of mutual support or protection.

But the amendment also allows the legislature to change its mind and no longer reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples. And the AP is reporting that the legislature is likely to consider just such a move this spring.

Hawaii lawmakers convene a new session Wednesday in which they expect to consider legalizing gambling, recognizing gay marriage and preserving Hawaiian lands. The session runs through May 7.

Hawaii, whose economy relies to a large extent on tourism, is feeling the economic crunch. Let’s hope that the legislature, which is almost unanimously Democratic, will decide that becoming a gay wedding destination spot could be a way to simultaneously advance personal liberties and help the financial condition of the state.

Comments

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Ben in Oakland
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

The mormon church is unfortunately very sytrong in Hawaii, my former home, and was very active in the anti-marriage movement even then.

Kristian
January 21st, 2009 | LINK

Please Hawaii. I would LOVE to get married there if that was an option.

Anna
January 22nd, 2009 | LINK

This Actually hits home for us. My Legal “Domestic Partner”, Spouse- (Washington State)Cancelled Our Destionation Wedding for Hawaii this past fall. On the reasons, that Sure, we concidered a Commitment ceremony there, But after prop 8 failed we decided to march for equal marriage for all in Seattle. We won’t settle for less. We would love to have our destionation wedding in Hawaii and would entertain the the trip. GO HAWAII, Equal Rights for all!!!

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