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A local gay rights activist launched a publicity stunt that became so much more. On the morning of December 17,according to the press release he sent beforehand to local media, Bill Woods had plans to make news, not history. He would bring three same-sex couples, two female and one male, to the main office of the Hawaii Department of Public Health in downtown Honolulu, where they would complete applications for marriage s.

Woods had envisioned two possible scenarios. In one, the three couples walk out of the office as the first same-sex couples on earth legally authorized to marry. In the other, Woods would tell the assembled media to follow him and the couples as they walked to the local headquarters of the American Civil Liberties Union.

That morning, Woods told the three couples he had recruited to meet outside the old Blaisdell Hotel, whose office floors were home to both the ACLU and the Gay Community Center that Woods had launched and almost singlehandedly ran.

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Gathered around a park bench, Woods made introductions. Antoinette Pregil and Tammy Rodrigues had contacted him after reading in a local newspaper clip that he wanted to help same-sex couples marry; they thought it would likely solve the legal problems they faced as lesbian parents to foster children. There was not, Woods explained to each of them separately, unless they wanted to him in testing whether the state was ready to let them marry.

Same-sex marriage in hawaii

After explaining his plan, Woods led his six charges down Beretania Street to the health department. There were registered agents scattered across Hawaii, including government officials and even employees of large resort hotels that catered to wedding parties, but Woods, with an eye towards dramatic confrontation, selected the most highly trafficked of the available locations.

A cluster of journalists awaited them beneath an oleander canopy that shaded the entryway. With Woods looking on, each of the three couples took an application and completed it. The clerk calmly said that given the unprecedented nature of their request she could not summarily approve the applications the way she would if heterosexual couples had submitted them.

She directed the six applicants and their chaperone towards the back of the office, to speak with her boss. No one knew what would happen next, and the group disbanded, unsure they would ever have reason to see each other again. The two ordered cheeseburgers and reflected on the dizzying sequence of events. What they had done was set in motion a chain of events that would send a novel legal question from the outskirts of the American imagination to the floor of Congress and the Oval Office in a little more than five years. Within a quarter-century, the U.

Supreme Court would end the debate for good.

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Over many of the years in between, whether gays and lesbians should be permitted to marry was the most divisive social question in the country. But in Decembersame-sex marriage was in no meaningful way a political or legal issue. There was hardly a public figure in the country who had been forced to articulate an argument either for or against it.

To the extent that there were active disagreements about the topic, they were aired within gay and lesbian legal circles, where differences persisted on both the principle and strategy of pursuing marriage rights. Not a single major gay-rights group formally embraced marriage rights for its core constituency until the Hawaii Supreme Court in May gave unexpected blessing to the cause, the unexpected outcome of the legal process that Bill Woods began that morning in Honolulu.

But the truth is messier.

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The defining social movement of the 21st century began as a public-relations stunt, hatched by a relentless and entrepreneurial local activist competing with rivals for control of a single event-planning committee. Island life offered a new start, and from the moment Woods touched down he decided, for the first time in his life, to be open about his sexuality. Inwhen Oahu held its first gay-pride parade, a curiosity to onlookers along a Waikiki sidewalk, Woods was there. Years later, he became the first openly gay person to testify before the Hawaii legislature, then the first to address a state Democratic party convention.

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Woods joyfully took up arms in the culture wars. Before retreating back to Virginia, a disconsolate Falwell gave a farewell speech that mentioned only two names: Jesus Christ and Bill Woods. Woods promptly formed his own non-profit corporation, the Pride Parade and Rally Council, and set to work staging a rival event. Woods asked the governor to be his grand marshal, the Royal Hawaiian Band to perform and a caterer to de an International Cuisine Festival. He also plotted a wedding ceremony for as many as two dozen same-sex couples.

Throughout the summer and fall ofACLU officials kept deflecting his request for help, apparently hoping that Woods would lose interest and move on to another project.

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When Woods did run out of patience, he decided to head to the health department with the first couples he could find—hoping that media coverage would force the ACLU into action. Twelve days after the three couples applied for marriage s, Hawaii attorney general Warren Price advised the health department that it was right not to have issued them.

Both he and health director John Lewin said that even as there was no room for the state to recognize same-sex marriages, they would work with legislators to provide other support to gays and lesbians.

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The couples, however, were intent on heading first to the courts. Without any immediate offers of help from the ACLU, Woods led the couples to seek out a lawyer of their own. Foley was already becoming known around Honolulu as a lawyer drawn to unpopular, even unimaginable, causes.

His path to the law was itself untraditional. As a young University of San Francisco graduate with experience in anti-war activism and an interest in cultural anthropology, he had ed the Peace Corps and was ased to serve as an agricultural-extension officer in Lesotho.

Observing firsthand how a weak constitution hobbled the young country, Foley gained a new appreciation for the rule of law. He returned to the Bay Honolulu1 Hawaii married girl sex dating for law school and, revering the Warren Court and its success using the constitution as a driver of social change, ed a Marin County firm that specialized in civil-rights work.

His sympathies often turned specifically west across the Pacific. He had first visited Hawaii as a teenager, when he came to visit an aunt who had moved to the islands after marrying a Hawaiian man. Foley was struck by how the indigenous population had found itself disempowered upon statehood, their language and culture relegated by an ascendant political class of relocated outsiders. In the most prominent, Foley successfully defended the Miss Gay Molokai ant after a local official, under pressure from religious conservatives, refused to grant a permit to the hula carnival and cited the potential spread of HIV to justify it.

Even as he made his living as a litigator, Foley maintained the affect of the cultural anthropologist. He wore a neatly cropped salt-and-pepper beard and round, thin-frame tortoise-shell glasses, and a high forehead that exposed thick lines when he concentrated. Like many Hawaii lawyers, he usually wore a suit and tie only when he had to appear in court; on days spent in his office, Foley was as likely to be found in an aloha shirt untucked over jeans.

Raised Catholic and educated by Jesuits, he converted to Buddhism upon marriage to a Japanese-Chinese-Hawaiian woman and he saw diversity as central to the island temperament. On April 12,each of the three couples received a formal notice that the health department would not recognize same-sex unions. The letter from state registrar Alvin T. Onaka cited chapter of Hawaii Revised Statutes, the same part of the code whose ambiguity about questions of gender emboldened Woods in the first place.

The couples visited Foley and committed themselves to a long fight. The social taboos that persisted around gay couples resembled the ones that had long justified anti-miscegenation laws, and those who had considered strategies to legalize same-sex marriages often found themselves drawn to the example of Loving v. The unanimous U. Supreme Court decision in overturned state laws forbidding interracial marriages, on the grounds that such bans served no function other than racial discrimination.

Just five years earlier, inthe Supreme Court upheld state laws criminalizing sodomy. Just five years laterFoley reasoned, gay marriage would be an automatic loser if the matter found its way into federal courts.

Instead, he schemed to develop a case that would rely solely on interpretation of state law. But Foley knew instantly he wanted Baehr—an experienced activist who, unlike the others, was comfortable with both public speaking and fundraising—to be the face associated with a case that would become known as Baehr v.

Foley had one month to prepare his appeal, and he knew he was embarking on a case whose ramifications could be felt far beyond the islands. It is a human rights case.

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On October 13,Dan Foley awoke at 4 a. Afterwards Foley put on a white shirt, dark blue pinstriped suit and a burgundy Christian Dior tie. Aroundafter resetting the alarm for his wife, Foley left the house, carrying the suit jacket and a briefcase, and traversed the dark, quiet Pali Highway towards downtown. When he had first marked the date for oral argument in his calendar, Foley had been anticipating an appearance before a very different Supreme Court of Hawaii.

A freakish series of actuarial events that summer—mandatory retirements, promotions, a death and a recusal—had turned over a majority of the five seats, some more than once. Now only two normal sitting members remained, with a combined three years of high-court experience between them, and Foley decided to aim his argument at the justice he knew best. He had faced off with Steven Levinson years before in a trial over a controversial zoning issue at Sandy Beach, with Levinson representing the developer and Foley the aggrieved residents.

Now they would meet again in another courtroom, as two bearded year-old Honolulu1 Hawaii married girl sex dating of the s, both proud card-carrying members of the ACLU. Levinson discreetly kept his membership active even while on the bench, in violation of ethics guidelines. When, in September, Foley began scribbling notes for an opening statement on a yellow legal pad, he had Levinson in mind as his audience. He knew that if he was unable to persuade Levinson, he would be unlikely to win over any other justice. In a dark, empty 24 th -floor office, Foley read the opening argument aloud, timing himself.

After completing it twice, in each instance under 20 minutes, Foley sorted his papers in a stack, scooped up his prayer be, and turned his chair so that it was facing a back wall in the direction of his Kailua home. He began another Buddhist chantand for an hour and a half thought only of the opening argument, focusing his will on the goal of carrying himself well and communicating clearly to the justices.

At am, he opened the door and found his office had begun to rattle with life. Foley gathered his officemates and set off on the four-block walk to Aliiolani Hale, the 19th-century building that is home to the highest rungs of the Hawaiian judiciary. On his way inside, Foley navigated a cluster of media massed in the hallway outside the chambers, larger than any he had seen before.