Lambda Legal and ACLU File Lawsuit Against Hawai`i Governor Seeking Civil Unions for Same-Sex Couples

Affiliate: ACLU of Hawaii
July 29, 2010 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Hawaii
Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


“The political process has failed the thousands of families who need the protections civil unions would have provided.”

Honolulu — Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai‘i Foundation (ACLU) today filed suit against the State of Hawai`i three weeks after Governor Linda Lingle’s veto of House Bill (HB) 444, a bill that would have allowed unmarried couples to enter civil unions with comprehensive state law rights and responsibilities. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of six same-sex couples, five from O`ahu and one from Hawai`i Island.

“It’s tragic that something needed so badly by so many Hawai`i families was derailed with a stroke of the governor’s pen,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, Lambda Legal Senior Counsel. “We had hoped we’d never have to file this lawsuit but the political process has failed the thousands of families who need the protections civil unions would have provided. Every Hawai`i family should be treated equally under the law, but because the state refuses to do that, we’re forced to go to the courts.”

The complaint filed today in the Hawai`i First Circuit Court argues that the state violates its own constitution by denying same-sex couples important rights and protections readily available to heterosexual couples through marriage.

Lois Perrin, Legal Director for the ACLU of Hawaii said: “Governor Lingle vetoed HB 444, thereby failing in her sworn duty to do what’s best for the state she governs. To add insult to injury, she would now put fundamental rights up for a popular vote. The constitution and the courts exist to prevent the majority – even when spearheaded by the Governor – from denying the rights of the few, which is why we filed this case.

Hawai`i’s constitution was amended in 1998 to allow the Legislature to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples, which it has done. The lawsuit does not ask for marriage – only for the state to make available the full range of state law protections and duties to gay and lesbian couples, such as access to the same legal protections regarding parent-child relationships, access to family court, child support and alimony. The current “reciprocal beneficiaries” system not only fails to provide many basic rights but also is confusing in its incompleteness and sends a harmful message that the state views same-sex couples as unworthy of the full range of rights and protections.

Jennifer C. Pizer and Tara Borelli of Lambda Legal’s Western Regional Office in Los Angeles, and Lois Perrin, Daniel Gluck and Laurie A. Temple of the ACLU of Hawai`i are co-counsel in the case. Paul Alston, Clyde Wadsworth, and Stephen M.Tannenbaum of the law firm of Alston, Hunt, Floyd & Ing are serving as cooperating attorneys.

Filing documents and more information available at:

By completing this form, I agree to receive occasional emails per the terms of the ACLU’s privacy policy.

The latest in LGBTQ Rights

ACLU's Vision

The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.

Learn More About LGBTQ Rights

LGBTQ issue image

The ACLU works to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people can live openly without discrimination and enjoy equal rights, personal autonomy, and freedom of expression and association.