Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Churches' Challenge To Hawaii Civil Union Law Dismissed

In Emmanuel Temple, The House of Praise v. Abercrombie, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 157950 (D HI, Oct. 2, 2012), a Hawaii federal district court dismissed a constitutional challenge to Hawaii's Civil Unions Law. Plaintiffs complained that the Act chills their free exercise of religion because it does not exempt churches from Hawaii's anti-discrimination laws. However the suit was filed before a 2012 amendment to the law that provides no religious organization shall be required to make their religious facility available for solemnizing civil unions if the facilities are currently limited to use for marriages only by members. The court held that the complaint as filed is moot because of the amendment to the law.  It also held that plaintiffs should not be allowed to amend their complaint to challenge the conditions on the exemption imposed by the 2012 amendment. According to the court, plaintiffs have not shown that they have standing or that the action is ripe for adjudication:
any threat of enforcement and imposition of fines by government officials ... for violating the Civil Unions Law is highly speculative. No one has asked Plaintiffs to use their facilities for a civil union. No one has inquired about such use in the days following Act 1's effective date. And, the record contains no indication that, in the nine months since its implementation, any couple has sought to use Plaintiffs' facilities in relation to solemnizing a civil union. Plaintiffs cannot say when and under what circumstances such a request might be made, if ever.

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