Partners Task Force for Gay & Lesbian Couples
Demian, director   ||   206-935-1206   ||   demian@buddybuddy.com   ||   Seattle, WA

Table of Contents

Notable Events Legal Marriage Essays Legal Marriage Data Ceremonial Marriage Domestic Partnership
Legal Necessities Relationship Tips Immigration Couples Chronicles Parenting
Inspiration Orientation Basics Surveys Resource Lists Citation Information
Welcome (About) Your Host Copyright Policy Link Policies Search Site

Hawaii Marriage Suit Timeline
© 2002, Demian



December 1990
Two female couples and one male couple apply for marriage licenses at the Hawaii State Department of Health. The couples, Ninia Baehr & Genora Dancel, Tammy Rodriguez & Antoinette Pregil, and Pat Lagoon & Joe Melillo, where led to the action by activist Bill Woods.
February 1991
The Hawaii Attorney General denies the licenses on the grounds that the couples are of the same sex.
May 1991
Attorney Dan Foley files suit in Hawaii State First Circuit Court on the grounds that his clients’ rights to privacy and equal protection under Hawaii’s Constitution were breached.
October 1991
At the trial of Baehr v. Lewin, (which became Baehr v. Miike and is now called Baehr v. Anderson), Foley argues that gay men and lesbians have been discriminated against historically and are entitled to equal protection, and that sexual orientation is resistant to change. Circuit Court Judge Klein dismisses the case. Foley files an appeal.
May 1993
Hawaii’s Supreme Court Judge Levin rules that denying licenses to same-sex partners is discriminatory and unless there is a “compelling state interest” (a strict legal definition) same-sex marriage must be allowed. The case is sent back to the lower court to be retried.
January to June 1994 (legislative session)
All language regarding procreation as a basis for marriage was found prejudicial against the handicapped, elderly, and others in 1984 and stricken from Hawaii’s law books, but in this legislative session, procreation is declared a reason to discriminate against lesbians and gays. Foley declares that this line of reasoning may actually work in the plaintiffs’ favor, since procreation won’t meet the strict “compelling interest” standard set by Hawaii’s Supreme Court.

A law is passed prohibiting same-sex marriages and creating a commission to study domestic partnerships (Commission on Sexual Orientation and the Law).

April 1995
The legislature approved a rewording of the existing marriage law (Hawaii Revised Statue 572-1) to define marriage in terms of one man and one woman.
August 1995
A study in the Southern California Law Review reports that within five years of allowing same-sex couples to wed, the “first mover” state would reap nearly $4 billion in tourist-related earnings.
December 1995
The Commission on Sexual Orientation and the Law, mandated by the legislature, releases its recommendation: that same-sex marriages should be recognized. The commission had been expected to only endorse domestic partnerships.
September 1996
In the marriage suit, Circuit Court Judge Chang hears the state argue its “compelling state interest” for preventing same-sex marriage. Attorney Foley (now joined by attorney Evan Wolfson of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund) provides logic resulting in showing that the state has no valid reason to deny legal marriage.

President Clinton signs the “Defense of Marriage Act” designed to allow states the option of not recognizing same-sex marriages that are legal in any other state. This law appears to be unconstitutional.

November 1996
Hawaii votes on holding a Constitutional Convention, which could gut the sex discrimination laws, thereby killing same-sex marriage possibilities (and equal rights for women as well). After much confusion regarding the intent of blank ballots, the Constitutional Convention is slated to be held. A suit is filed to overturn the vote.
December 1996
The marriage suit (now called (Baehr v. Miike) provides an unprecedented victory. The state attempted to prove that marriage licenses are issued because of children and that children are best raised by their biological parents. The plaintiffs were able to prove that marriage licenses are given for many more reasons than children, that the sex or sexual orientation of the parents has no bearing on the ability to raise children, and that the best environment for raising children was a nurturing environment. Circuit Court Judge Chang orders the state to permit same-sex couples to marry.

For 24 hours same-sex marriage is legal in Hawaii. The next day Judge Chang stays the order, pending appeal.

March 1997
The Hawaii Supreme Court rules that blank ballots count as “no” votes, therefore, a Constitutional Convention won’t be held.
May 1997
Hawaii legislators pass a bill proposing a constitutional amendment that puts the question of whether marriage should be reserved for opposite-sex couples to voters in 1998.

Hawaii becomes the first state to mandate statewide domestic partnership benefits to same-sex couples. Called “Reciprocal Beneficiaries,” these benefits cover less than 60 items (the law seems to be ambiguous on the exact number) and are offered only through certain business, some of which complained that the state has no business dictating employee policies. The Hawaii attorney general declared that she would not enforce the requirement for private employers to offer benefits. A history of Reciprocal Beneficiaries is included here:
      [Hawaii greatly expanded registration coverage in January 2012.
      See Civil Unions: The Hawaii Approach.]

August 1997
Advocates for holding a Constitutional Convention appeal the Hawaii Supreme Court’s decision in U. S. Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Federal Court rules a new vote must be held. That decision is now on hold pending an appeal in U. S. Federal Ninth Circuit Court to stop the Constitutional Convention.
December 1997
Pat Robertson’s legal team represents eight Hawaii legislators in a court motion to intervene in the marriage case. The Hawaii Supreme Court dismisses the motion.
November 1998
Hawaii voters ratified a constitutional amendment permitting (although it does not require) the legislature to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples. The legislature may act in 1999. In sending the amendment proposal, the legislature coupled it with legislation which would accord same-sex couples, and other domestic partners, the broadest package of rights and benefits ever offered same-sex families in the U.S. It is unclear if this will have any impact on Baehr v. Miike (now called Baehr v. Anderson), which is still pending before the Hawaii Supreme Court. The Court ordered supplemental briefings, to be completed by February 1999.
December 1999
The Hawaii State Supreme Court made a final ruling which denied legal marriage to same-sex couples.
[For a review of the pursuit of marital legal status in the U.S., see: Legal Marriage Court Cases — A Timeline.]
January 2001
The “Reciprocal Beneficiaries” status offered by Hawaii no longer covers any insurance or medical benefits.


The data in this article came, in part, from material provided by the
Marriage Project - Hawaii, Martin Rice and many news sources.


Return to: Partners: Table of Contents