HI Supreme Court Says ‘I Do’ to Gay-Marriage Law

     (CN) – Hawaii Rep. Bob McDermott, a vocal critic of same-sex marriage, cannot show the state’s Marriage Equality Act injuries his own right to marry, and therefore lacks standing to sue, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled.
     In November 2013, the Hawaii legislature approved the Marriage Equality Act, becoming the 15th state to recognize same-sex marriage.
     The state Senate approved the bill by 19-4 vote, four days after the state House approved it 30-19.
     McDermott, R-Ewa Beach, voted against the bill and along with three others filed suit to block it.
     Plaintiffs claimed that the law is unconstitutional under a 1998 amendment to the Hawaii Constitution which gave the Legislature “the power to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples.”
     However, a judge in Oahu dismissed the suit for lack of standing without reaching the merits of this claim, and the Hawaii Supreme Court affirmed last week.
     “The Legislature’s decision to extend the right to marry to same-sex couples does not, in any way, diminish the right to marry that appellants remain free to exercise,” Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald wrote the unanimous Supreme Court.
     And McDermott cannot establish standing solely on the grounds that the issue of same-sex marriage is a matter of great public importance, but must show he and the other plaintiffs suffered an actual or threatened injury, the high court found.
     McDermott argued that his vote for the constitutional amendment on same-sex marriage in 1997, which he believed prohibited same-sex marriage, was “nullified” by the vote legalizing gay marriage in 2013.
     “Although a legislator may indeed have standing to challenge a law if his or her vote was nullified or if he or she was unlawfully deprived of the right to vote, Rep. McDermott simply has not shown the requisite deprivation or nullification that is required to establish such standing,” Recktenwald wrote.
     The court remained unconvinced that plaintiffs were misled by the meaning of the 1998 marriage amendment, or that the state engaged in “bait and switch” tactics. Even if they were confused by the wording of the constitutional amendment and believed it meant something different, the defendants to this suit are not the responsible parties, the court found.
     “Although it appears appellants have deeply held objections to same-sex marriage, such moral or ideological disapproval does not constitute a legally cognizable injury sufficient to establish standing,” Recktenwald concluded.
     McDermott continues to oppose same-sex marriage in the Legislature, introducing a bill in the 2015 session to put a constitutional amendment reserving marriage for opposite-sex couples before Hawaii voters.
     The bill went to committee in February, and the Legislature recessed for the summer in May without taking further action on it.

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