Sunday, November 03, 2013


Cheat sheet for understanding Hawaii’s SB1 marriage equality bill–what it means in plain language

by Larry Geller

Ok, people, no more excuses (myself included) for not reading the bill. Here is the “Cliff Notes” version of Senate Bill 1, in language that is easier to understand. Thanks again to our volunteer for the analysis.

When you next see discussion on TV where people are saying crazy things about this bill, you can refer to this “cheat sheet” to cut through the hype.

Hawaii SB1 – Relating to Equal Rights (the marriage equality bill)

Section 1.

States the Purpose of the Law

Section 2.

First subsection: Allows those in reciprocal beneficiaries or civil unions to get married and have their reciprocal beneficiary status or civil union status converted to marriage when they get married and sets the date of their marriage as though they got married when they entered the reciprocal beneficiary or civil union status.

Second subsection: Allows courts and government agencies "when necessary to implement the rights, benefits, etc., of spouses" to read laws in gender neutral fashion. This slightly expands HRS 1-17 which states, in interpreting laws: "Words in the masculine gender signify both the masculine and feminine gender[.]" It expands it to the extent that words in the feminine gender shall signify both masculine and feminine gender for purposes of marriage.

Third subsection: Expands slightly the present legal presumption that when a married woman has a child, her lawful spouse is the other parent. This subsection would clarify that this presumption includes same-sex couples.

Fourth subsection: Several state laws simply adopt the regulatory framework of some federal law. This subsection clarifies that even if the federal law does not expressly include same-sex marriages, state law continues to adopt these federal frameworks as though it also expressly includes same-sex marriages.

Fifth subsection: Restates constitutional doctrine that clerics that solemnize civil marriages will not be subject to fine, penalty, injunction, administrative proceeding or other civil liability.

Sixth subsection: Expands a religious exemption of the public accommodations law for "religious organizations and facilities" so long as the facilities or grounds are not available to the public "for a profit." The exemption goes beyond sexual orientation and also includes an exemption from discrimination based on race and other protected categories.

Section 3.

Changes the marriage statute to be gender neutral and eliminating the requirement of marriage being "between a man and a woman".

Section 4.

Changes the marriage statute to recognize all marriages entered into legally elsewhere here in Hawai'i (The change is to remove the limitation on marriage being "a man and a woman."

Section 5.

Changes the marriage statute to include language that allows those in civil unions to apply for marriage licenses.

Section 6.

Changes the marriage statute to allow a married couple to file an affidavit with the Department of Health attesting to the marriage having been solemnized if the person who solemnized the marriage fails to report it to the Department. Also changes language to gender neutral language.

Section 7.

Changes the civil unions statute by eliminating language made redundant by the addition of the language in Section 2, Fifth subsection in the marriage statute.

Section 8.

Eliminates language in the civil union statute regarding marriage being limited to one man and one woman.

Section 9.

Changes the marriage statute to grant family courts jurisdiction to grant annulments, divorces or separations between people married in Hawai'i who do not reside in Hawai'i and the place they live do not recognize their marriage. This provision is limited to the formal dissolution of the marriage unless there is some other legal basis for the family court to divide property, deal with child custody, child support, or other matters.

While there is case law that allows states to ignore judgments where neither party resides in the state that grants the judgment, if a state doesn't recognize the underlying marriage either, then the immediate practical result is the same (don't recognize the marriage + don't recognize the divorce = the parties are recognized as unmarried) but the legal status of the individuals with respect to states that do recognize same-sex marriage is clarified and settled by the judgment in the event one or both parties leave whatever state they live in.

Section 10.

Reaffirms the continuing effect of reciprocal beneficiaries or civil unions.

Section 11.

Reaffirms the Department of Health has the authority to modify its procedures and forms to implement this law.

Section 12.

Allows each section to continue to have the force and effect of law if any particular section or part is invalidated.

Section 13.

Authorizes the revisor of statutes to substitute appropriate section numbers for new sections in the bill.

Section 14.

Expresses that Ramseyer format (bracketing/striking repealed legal text, underscoring new legal text) is the typesetting method by which the legislature expresses what is to be repealed and what is to be added as statute.

Section 15.

Indicates that the law will become effective on November 18, 2013.



Thanks for posting this Larry. It makes it easier to navigate by having the overview on easy display like this.

BTW, your link goes to SR 1, not SB 1. You might want to fix that!

Oops. Thank you. Now, where are my glasses? Fixing it now.

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