The ruling by Judge Alan. C. Kay Wednesday (Aug. 8) broke a string of court losses by traditionalists on the subject of gay marriage.
At issue in Hawaii was a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 1998 giving the legislature the power to define marriage in the traditional sense, which legislators subsequently did.
A lesbian couple and a gay man filed suit in federal court last year against Hawaii officials, arguing the amendment and law violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. But Kay, nominated by President Reagan, ruled the legislature had a rational interest defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
"Throughout history and societies, marriage has been connected with procreation and childrearing," Kay wrote in his 117-page decision. "... The legislature could rationally conclude that on a societal level, the institution of marriage acts to reinforce 'the important legal and normative link between heterosexual intercourse and procreation on the one hand and family responsibilities on the other.'"
The legislature, Kay wrote, could "also rationally conclude that other things being equal, it is best for children to be raised by a parent of each sex."
"Both sides presented evidence on this issue and both sides pointed out flaws in their opponents' evidence," he wrote of parenting. "Thus, the Court concludes this rationale is at least debatable and therefore sufficient."
The issue, Kay added, is up to the legislature.
"In this situation, to suddenly constitutionalize the issue of same-sex marriage 'would short-circuit' the legislative actions that have been taking place in Hawaii," he wrote.
The ruling will be appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, generally considered one of the most liberal courts in the nation.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) represented the Hawaii Family Forum in defending the law. Hawaii Family Forum was allowed to intervene after Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, refused to defend the law in court.
"This ruling affirms that protecting and strengthening marriage as the union of one man and one woman is legitimate, reasonable, and good for society," ADF attorney Dale Schowengerdt said in a statement. "The people of Hawaii adopted a constitutional amendment to uphold marriage, and the court rightly concluded that the democratic process shouldn't be short-circuited by judicial decree."
The case eventually could have a major impact on the nation because 30 states have amended their constitutions to define marriage as between one man and one woman. However, the California Prop 8 case -- which also involves a constitutional amendment -- is further along in the court system and could be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this fall. Supporters of Prop 8 appealed their case to the high court in late July.
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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