East Hawaii News

Legislature Can Vote on Gay Marriages, AG Says

October 15, 2013, 10:54 AM HST
* Updated October 15, 11:47 AM
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The state’s top lawyer has given a green light to a special legislative session later this month to consider a bill that would authorize gay marriages in Hawaii.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie earlier this month called for a special session to begin Oct. 28 to consider the legislation.

He said his was prompted by the US Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling that struck down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal tax, pension and health benefits to married gay couples.

Sen. Les Ihara. Senate photo.

Sen. Les Ihara. Senate photo.

Sen. Les Ihara, a Democrat representing parts of leeward Oahu, asked Attorney General David Louie to provide a legal opinion as to whether the Legislature has the authority to consider the governor’s proposed bill.

Because of the “significant controversy surrounding the cultural, religious, political, and legal concerns” surrounding the issue, Louie agreed a formal legal review was warranted, his office said in a press release today.

“Following a comprehensive legal analysis by the very capable deputy attorneys general in my office, I have concluded that the Legislature unquestionably has the constitutional authority to consider and enact the proposed bill,” Louie said.

The formal opinion, No. 13-1, was not immediately available on the attorney general’s website.

Rep. Marcus Oshiro. House photo.

Rep. Marcus Oshiro. House photo.

State Rep. Marcus Oshiro has been lobbying fellow House members against considering the bill during the special session. Oshiro, a Democrat representing central Oahu, has said he has concerns about religious exemptions in the bill.

He has also pushed for the matter to be taken before the voters in the form of a constitutional amendment, a position supported by some in the Mormon church and other large denominations in Hawaii.

Some church factions say that the bill’s religious exemptions, which provide for churches to opt out of performing gay marriages if they so wish, doesn’t go far enough.

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