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Hawaii judge refuses to block same-sex marriage legalization

A Hawaiin judge on Thursday denied a request [complaint, PDF] for a temporary restraining order against lawmakers to prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage. Oahu Circuit Court Judge Karl Sakamoto said he would hear any challenges made against such legislation if passed by the legislature. The suit was brought by Rep. Bob McDermott [official profile] after Governor Neil Abercrombie [official website] in August called for a special session of the state legislature to consider a same-sex marriage bill. The suit centered on a 1998 ballot issue on same-sex marriage. McDermott, who served as a a member of the State House of Representatives in 1998, argues that the plain meaning of a state constitutional amendment [text] limits marriage to opposite-sex couples. On the other hand, Abercrombie and many legislators believe that the amendment should not be interpreted as giving the legislature the power to make all decisions involving same-sex marriage.

The legalization of same-sex marriage has proven to be a cause of division in Hawaii. Last month the Hawaii Senate [official website] approved a measure [text, PDF] to legalize same-sex marriage in the state. Abercrombie signed [JURIST report] the same-sex civil unions bill into law in 2011, legalizing same-sex civil unions in the state. This legislation went into effect in January 2012 after being approved by the state's senate in an 18-5 vote. A similar bill was vetoed [JURIST report] in 2010 by former governor Linda Lingle, who cited concerns that the bill was "essentially marriage by another name" and said that the issue should be decided directly by the people of Hawaii. Following the signing of the same-sex civil unions bill in 2011, a lesbian couple filed suit [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the District of Hawaii, challenging the state's denial of same-sex marriage and claiming that they were being denied a "fundamental right." Although the court denied [JURIST report] the state law challenge in 2012, Abercrombie supported the plaintiffs' claims, publicly stating that he disagreed with the decision and that "[t]o refuse individuals the right to marry on the basis of sexual orientation or gender is discrimination in light of our civil union law."

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