Thursday, June 07, 2012

9th Circuit Upholds Hawaii Licensing Requirement For Commercial Beach Weddings

In Kaahumanu v. State of Hawaii, (9th Cir., June 6, 2012), the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeal for the most part upheld against 1st and 14th Amendment challenges Hawaii's regulation and associated guidelines that require permits for "commercial weddings" on public beaches.  The permit requirement applies to any wedding involving receipt of compensation for goods or services, other than service of a photographer, even if the only compensation is that paid to a member of the clergy for performing the ceremony. The court held that the state regulation "is is narrowly tailored to a significant governmental interest, is content-neutral, leaves ample alternative spaces for hosting a wedding, and does not vest too much discretion in the government official when issuing the permits." The court however struck down a provision in the regulation giving the Department of Land and Natural Resources authority to revoke or add terms and conditions to an already issued permit for any reason.  The court rejected a contention by plaintiffs that the regulation's prohibition on placing various types of wedding accessories on the beach creates a preference for nonliturgical religions and targets members of the Catholic, Orthodox or Jewish faiths. The court interpreted the regulation as permitting hand-held accessories including religious objects such as hand-held chuppas, chalices, and small, handheld kahilis.