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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
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Case Against Hawaii Gay Marriage Ends as Moot

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - This week's flurry of same-sex marriage news continued Friday, as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied as moot a challenge to Hawaii's gay marriage ban which had already been undone by legislative action last year.

The Aloha State became the 15th state in the nation to legalize gay marriage after the state Senate approved the Hawaii Marriage Equality Act in November 2013.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, had pushed the legislation in the wake of a voter-approved 1998 amendment which tasked state lawmakers with blocking marriage equality. Abercrombie called Amendment 2 "inequality" and refused to defend it in a court challenge, leaving Hawaii's health department chief, Loretta Fuddy, to represent the state instead.

Despite the passage of the marriage equality law, the legal battle against the ban continued to the 9th Circuit last month along with similar skirmishes in Idaho and Nevada. But for Hawaii, the only real issue was whether the court should dismiss the case as moot or grant a stay in the case while man-woman marriage advocates seek to overturn the statute.

While the state advocated for mootness, attorney Ken Connelly for Hawaii Family Forum said that premature dismissal "risks harming the court and the public interest."

On Friday, the panel declared the case moot - noting that the gay and lesbian plaintiffs had already married their partners and got "everything they hoped to achieve."

The judges added that other lawsuits challenging Hawaii's marriage equality law already in the pipeline "do not defeat mootness" in this case.

October has already been a banner month for same-sex marriage advocates. On Oct. 3, a state judge ordered Missouri to begin recognizing gay marriages from other states.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the challenges of states whose same-sex marriage bans have been struck down by federal courts. That opened up marriage for all couples in Utah, Indiana, Virginia, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Colorado and West Virginia.

Also earlier this week, the 9th Circuit struck down bans in Idaho and Nevada, although the Supreme Court stayed that decision for Idaho only. Nevada began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples on Oct. 9.

The Supreme Court has since lifted its stay for Idaho as well.

Theoretically, the Supreme Court's silence on the issue for this term also opened up same-sex marriage in the Carolinas. But the South Carolina Supreme Court ordered probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples after a judge in Charleston issued more than a dozen of them on Thursday.

And in North Carolina, lawmakers are trying to intervene in two pending cases, claiming that the federal court has no jurisdiction to hear the case at all.

As of Oct. 10, 27 states and the District of Columbia allow and recognize same-sex marriage - or 55 percent of the U.S. population.

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