From the Star-Advertiser: “1993 ruling paved way for shifting views on marriage equality”

April 30, 2013

The front page of today’s Star Advertiser tells the story of the 1993 ruling that started a national conversation about marriage for same-sex couples.

The centerpiece of the article is an interview with Steven Levinson, the Hawaii Supreme Court Associate Justice who wrote the opinion in Baehr v. Lewin stating that denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry is discrimination. Levinson recalls his approach to serving on the state’s highest court:

“Being new and relatively young, and not lacking in self-confidence, and understanding the nature of the power that the court wielded, I wasn’t temperamentally inclined to shirk big issues…We cannot hide from the task of making the world more just and decent.”

And he didn’t. Levinson’s opinion on the big issue of marriage for same-sex couples reverberated across the country. Following Levinson’s ruling, in 1996, Congress passed the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which denies committed same-sex couples the freedom to marry, and in the years following, dozens of states across the country enacted state-level bans on marriage for gay couples. In 1998, Hawaii voters nullified the Supreme Court decision but left the door open for Hawaii lawmakers to extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples.

In recent years, nine states and Washington, DC have chosen to allow all loving couples to share in the freedom to marry — with Rhode Island, Delaware, Minnesota, and Illinois all currently considering proposals to do the same. This dramatic turnaround is a result of Americans’ shifting views. Levinson said: “I understood why marriage was important.” As Hawaiians and Americans have come to understand why marriage matters for all families, they have come to support marriage equality.

The story of Levinson and his opinion in Baehr v. Lewin makes one thing quite clear: Hawaii played a critical role in where we are now — in the midst of a national movement for marriage equality that’s gaining momentum every day. Hawaii United is poised and ready to continue our history as a leader and win the freedom to marry here in the Aloha State.

Click here to read the full story from the Star Advertiser.