Hawaii Civil Unions: Lambda Legal and ACLU to file lawsuit
Gay rights groups didn’t spend much time licking their wounds after Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle vetoed a civil unions bill — announcing plans for a lawsuit against the state almost immediately.
Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union say Hawaii’s constitution guarantees equal protection – so gay couples must be given the same rights as straight couples.
The legal route has been tried before. In the early 90s, a gay couple filed a lawsuit in Hawaii for the right to marry. But in the middle of the case, voters amended the contstitution to prohibit the courts from changing the law when it comes to marriage.
Jenny Pizer is director of Lambda Legal’s Marriage Project.
Pizer: “The plaintiffs could not get the redress they were seeking, they were seeking marriage licenses. That’s what that case was about. And because the constitution had been changed, the legislature’s decision to restrict marriage could not be challenged in court.”
Pizer says the lawsuit being planned won’t be specifically seeking marriage. It therefore won’t be affected by the amendment, and will have a greater chance of success. Pizer says the suit will hopefully do more than just win some measure of equality for gay couples – it will start a dialogue within the state, about equality and the law.
Pizer: “A lawsuit that’s about securing more legal protections for people who need them can also be a vehicle for prompting people to talk about what equal means. What does free and equal mean in our society? What’s a constitution for? What is it that we understand our elected representatives are doing?”
Pizer wouldn’t specify when the lawsuit would be filed, other than to say “soon.”