While the case to ban on same-sex marriage in Hawaii has been upheld by the federal district court, Judge Susan Oki Mollway has granted one lesbian couple the right to marry anyway. In a 29-page ruling, Mollway granted the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction stopping the state from interfering with the couple’s right to marry. Mollway rejected motions by the state to dismiss the case.
In the order, Mollway wrote “Plaintiffs are suffering irreparable harm by being continuously denied their right to marry. The Supreme Court has stated that marriage is an expression of emotional support and public commitment, that marriage carries spiritual significance, and that marriage is often a precondition to the receipt of government benefits, property rights, and other less tangible benefits. . . . Every day that Plaintiffs are unable to marry they are denied these benefits.” Order Granting Motion for Preliminary Injunction at 25-26.
Daniel Gluck, ACLU Senior Staff Attorney stated that “We are delighted that our clients can finally marry their fiancés. This ruling, however, is just beginning: the ACLU is fighting a long-term pattern of unconstitutional denials of prisoners’ marriages based on subjective reasons well outside the authority of government. This pattern is so deeply rooted in the DPS culture that official, top-down DPS policy changes, threats of lawsuits, and a crystal-clear ruling from the United States Supreme Court could not stop it from continuing. Sadly, it took this lawsuit to force DPS to follow the law regarding treatment of inmate marriage requests, and we want to make sure that DPS changes its policies – not just for our clients, but for any individual who seeks to marry now and in the future.”
The ACLU explained that:
The lawsuit, filed May 15, 2012, charged officials of DPS with unlawful discrimination in deciding who has the right to marry. The Plaintiffs are two women who submitted multiple marriage applications over several years and were banned from being able to wed their fiancés, both of whom are incarcerated at the Saguaro Correctional Facility in Eloy, Arizona. The practice of denying prisoners the right to marry was ruled unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78 (1987). Particularly where prisoners wish to marry individuals outside of prison, the Court explained, the State has virtually no interest whatsoever: “where the inmate wishes to marry a civilian, the decision to marry (apart from the logistics of the wedding ceremony) is a completely private one.” Id. at 98. The State repeatedly ignored this constitutional directive from the Supreme Court and routinely told couples that they could not marry.
This order does not extend to all of Hawaii’s same-sex couples.