Baehr v. Lewin and the Long Road to Marriage Equality

50 Pages Posted: 29 May 2011 Last revised: 30 Jun 2012

Michael Sant'Ambrogio

Michigan State University - College of Law

Sylvia Ann Law

New York University School of Law

Date Written: May 28, 2011

Abstract

In 1993, the Hawai‘i Supreme Court held in Baehr v. Lewin that excluding same-sex couples from marriage was presumptively invalid under the Hawai‘i Constitution because it discriminated on the basis of sex. Consequently, the exclusion could only be upheld if the State could demonstrate that it “furthers compelling state interests and is narrowly drawn to avoid unnecessary abridgments of constitutional rights.” This decision marked the first victory in the marriage equality movement in America.

Baehr and its progeny have generated an important debate in legal and social science literature about whether “early” civil rights victories are incremental steps forward or precipitate a damaging backlash. The paper argues that, on balance, Baehr was an important step forward for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights and gender equality. By asking the State to explain why same-sex couples could not be married, the Hawai‘i Supreme Court opened a dialogue that continues to this day.

Suggested Citation

Sant'Ambrogio, Michael and Law, Sylvia Ann, Baehr v. Lewin and the Long Road to Marriage Equality (May 28, 2011). University of Hawaii Law Review, Vol. 33, 2011; NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 11-37. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1855065

Michael Sant'Ambrogio (Contact Author)

Michigan State University - College of Law ( email )

648 N. Shaw Lane
Room 367
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300
United States

Sylvia Ann Law

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

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