Marriage Equality USA

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State of Hawai'i
All in this Region

Current Status

  • Civil marriage equality in effect at the state level since 2013. (Same-sex couples may legally marry.)
  • In addition to marriage, Hawai'i also allows both same-sex and opposite-sex couples to formalize their relationships legally in the form of civil unions and reciprocal beneficiary relationships. Civil unions provide the same rights, benefits, and obligations of marriage at the state level, while reciprocal beneficiary relationships provide only a limited set of rights.


  • Hawai'i holds an important place in the history of the marriage equality movement. For many people in the American LGBTQ community the first time they ever seriously thought about possibly gaining the right to civil marriage was when Hawai'i began to fight for marriage equality. Baehr v. Miike (originally Baehr v. Lewin) was a lawsuit in which three same-sex couples argued that Hawai'i's prohibition of same-sex marriage violated the state constitution. Initiated in 1990, the passage of an amendment to the state constitution banning marriage equality in 1998 led to the dismissal of the case in 1999. The publicity surrounding this case had powerful ramifications through-out the United States.
  • When the state legislature was in the process of passing the Hawai'i Marriage Equality Act in 2013, legislators went out of their way to ensure that everyone who wished to could speak to the bill. The result was an extensive "citizens' filibuster" attempt to block the bill's progress - over 5,000 people spoke. Of note, is that the large majority of people who spoke in opposition said they did so because of their Christian religious beliefs. These were primarily people who identified themselves as native Hawai'ians, crediting their opposition to marriage equality to a religion that had been imposed on the islands by outsiders in the 1800's. None of the opposition seemed to represent non-Westernized Hawai'ian culture. 

Legislation - Pending

HB1302 - Constitutional Amendment; Marriage (ConAm)

Date Introduced: 28 January 2015
Author/Sponsor: Rep. Bob McDermott [R]


  • 28 January 2015, this is another attempt to kill marriage equality in HW. Per Proposes a constitutional amendment to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples.
  • 29 January 2015, introduced and passed first reading.

Legislation - Enacted

Hawai'i Marriage Equality Act of 2013

Date Introduced: 28 October 2013
Date Enacted: 13 November 2013


  • January 2013, a bill was introduced in the Hawai'i House of Representatives and Senate that would legalize same-sex marriage. Despite the support of Governor Abercrombie and the Hawai'i Congressional delegation, the Legislature adjourned without voting on the legislation.
  • On September 9, Governor Abercrombie announced that he was calling the Hawai'i State Legislature into special session on October 28 to consider the same-sex marriage bill.
  • The bill had wide support in the Senate as well as the required majority in the House. If approved, the bill would take effect November 18.
  • 5,184 people signed up to testify re: the bill in Committee hearings. By the end of November 4, all initial testifiers had been heard.
  • Following extensive public debate and an attempted "citizens' filibuster" of the legislation to block its progress, the full state House advanced the same-sex marriage bill to a final vote 30-18.
  • On November 8, the House passed the bill on its final reading 30-19. Since the House had amended the bill, the Senate would also have to approve the expanded religious exemption amendment for the bill to become law. The Senate voted 19-4 in favor of the amended bill on November 12, and the final version of the bill was signed into law by Governor Abercrombie on November 13.
  • The bill took effect on 2 December 2013.

Lawsuits - Pending

McDermott v. Abercrombie

Case #: 13-1-2899-10 KKS
Court Level: Hawai'i Supreme Court
Date Filed: 30 October 2013
Date of Appeal: ?
Ruling Date: 29 January 2013 (State District Court)


  • Hawai’i State Representative Bob McDermott and three other individuals challenged the constitutionality of the Hawai'i Legislature’s authority to enact a law that would allow same-sex couples to marry in Hawai’i.
  • 14 November 2013, Circuit Court Judge Karl Sakamoto ruled against the opponents of same-sex marriage and refused to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent the state from granting marriage licenses to gay couples starting on 2 December 2013.
  • 29 January 2014, Judge Sakamoto granted the state's motion for summary judgment, ruling that the Hawai'i Marriage Equality Act of 2013, which took effect in December 2013, is constitutional.
  • This case was appealed - it leapfrogged over the intermediate court and was accepted by the Hawai'i Supreme Court. The case is scheduled for oral argument 18 December 2014, before the Hawaii Supreme Court:
    No. SCAP-14-0000843, Thursday December 18, 2014, 11:15 a.m.
    The above-captioned case has been set for argument on the merits at: Supreme Court Courtroom, Ali`iolani Hale, 2nd Floor, 417 South King Street, Honolulu, HI 96813
    "This case involves Respondents’ challenge to Hawaii’s Marriage Equality Act, which the legislature signed into law on November 13, 2013. The law changed the definition of marriage in Hawai`i to allow couples to marry without regard to their gender. While the legislature was considering the bill, Respondents filed a motion for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, which would have prevented the legislature from issuing any marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The circuit court denied this motion, and later granted summary judgment in favor of Petitioners."
    An archive of the audio from the hearing will be available later in the day.
  • 18 December 2014, Hawaii Supreme Court heard marriage equality arguments - KITV Channel 4 ABC Newsroom. Link to audio of hearing.

Lawsuits - Resolved

Natasha Jackson, et al., v. Governor Neil Abercrombie, et al.

Case #: 12-16995
Court Level: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Date Filed: 7 December 2011
Date of Appeal: 2013


  • A same-sex couple filed suit in U.S. district court to obtain marriage licenses in Hawai’i.
  • 27 January 2012, an amended complaint was filed, adding plaintiff Gary Bradley, one partner in a same-sex civil union, who was ultimately seeking marriage but thought it futile to apply.
  • The plaintiffs argued that the Marriage Laws violated the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution as applied to them.
  • 8 August 2012, a federal judge in Honolulu ruled against the couples seeking to marry. The plaintiffs had argued that Hawai'i’s 2011 civil union law is unconstitutional because it provides full state benefits but prevents couples from receiving any federal benefits.
  • In 2013, the plaintiffs appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • 25 October 2013, BALIF Coaltion, including MEUSA, submitted Amicus Brief
  • The Hawai'i State Legislature held a special session beginning 28 October 28 2013, and passed the Hawai'i Marriage Equality Act legalizing same-sex marriage. The governor signed the Act and it went into effect on 2 December 2013. 
  • NOTE: Many people are confused regarding why this case is continuing. When the Hawai'i Marriage Equality Act of 2013 (under LEGISLATION ENACTED above) became effective, it rendered the plaintiffs' complaint moot. The plaintiffs are now legally married. However, the case has been continued by the intervenors in the case, the Hawai'i Family Forum (HFF), opponents of marriage equality. HFF wants the case to be continued based on their belief that the Hawai'i Marriage Equality Act may be overturned. They would like this case not to be ruled as moot and vacated until McDermott v. Abercrombie (above) is completely resolved.
  • 19 March 2014, the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals determined the case "not does not appear suitable for summary disposition at this time."
  • On 6 May 2014 the director of Hawai'i's Dept. of Health noticed the court that she would not be filing a response brief.
  • On 27 May 2014 the Hawai'i Family Forum filed an answering brief.
  • Oral argument in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was set for 8 September 2014, beginning at 1:00pm PT, in Courtroom One of the James R. Browning U.S. Courthouse, 95 7th St., San Francisco, CA .
  • 20 August 2014, the 9th Circuit informed the parties in this case that they should be prepared to discuss the standing issue re: the intervenors (Coalition for the Protection of Marriage from ID) at oral arguments on September 8th. 
  • 8 September 2014, oral argument was heard by the 9th Circuit. Of interest was the fact that there were a couple of pointed questions and comments from the Court regarding this case possibly being "frivolous." 
  • 10 October 2014, the 9th Circuit directed the Hawaii trial court to vacate this case and to dismiss as moot the ruling in which plaintiffs lost. Finally!

Ballot Initiatives - Pending


Ballot Initiatives - Passed



  • 13 August 2013 the results of a QMark Research poll showed a majority of Hawai'i residents supported allowing gay couples to marry and fewer oppose it. The survey was conducted through 442 telephone interviews by QMark Research. Hawai'i residents statewide were asked: "Do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, strongly oppose or somewhat oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry?" 54% say they support same-sex marriage, while 31% oppose it.