November-December 1997 Home   Newsletters

January 1998

February 1998

Discrimination and the Constitution
President's Message (Grace Furukawa)
Gambling Forum
League Makes Tax Recommendations to Governor (Astrid Monson)
Membership Meeting Planned
Orientation Meeting (Grace Furukawa)
In Memoriam

"Discrimination and the Constitution"

At the Annual Program Planning Meeting on December 13, 1997, Dan Foley, civil rights lawyer, gave a presentation to the League of Women Voters on "Discrimination and the Constitution."

Mr. Foley explained how the Hawaii Constitution has recently come under attack from groups that are unhappy with recent Supreme Court of Hawaii decisions. According to Mr. Foley, this attack on the Hawaii Constitution and the Supreme court of Hawaii got into full gear after the Supreme Court of Hawaii in May 1993 ruled it was sex discrimination to deny same sex couples marriage licenses. The Supreme Court of Hawaii in May 1993 said it was sex-discrimination to deny a person the right to marry the one he or she loves because of that person's sex. According to the Supreme Court of Hawaii, it is as much sex discrimination as it is race discrimination to deny the right to a person to marry the person he or she loves because of that person's race. That type of race discrimination was found to be unconstitutional by the United State Supreme Court in 1967

In response to the Supreme Court of Hawaii's decision in the same-sex marriage case, the Hawaii legislature has taken the unprecedented step to amend Hawaii's Constitution to take away rights of a group of citizens. This would be the first constitutional amendment in the history of Hawaii to take away rights (as opposed to granting or extending rights). This is not the only unprecedented within this state, it is unprecedented within the nation. The United States Bill of Rights has only been amended to expand rights (with the possible exception of prohibition). The one state's (Colorado) attempt to amend its constitution to take away rights from gay and lesbian citizens was overturned by the united States Supreme court in 1996.

According to Mr. Foley, the very same groups that are pushing for a constitutional amendment to amend the Hawaii Bill of Rights to deny rights to gay and lesbian citizens are also pushing for a constitutional convention to take away rights from groups other than gay and lesbian citizens. Those pushing for a constitutional convention also disagree with the Supreme Court of Hawaii's decision regarding Native Hawaiian gathering rights. They disagree with the Supreme Court of Hawaii's decision concerning workers' rights in the areas of privatization and workmen's compensation. They believe a women's right to choose and control her own body as relates to an abortion should be left up to the government, not to the individual women concerned. They do not believe in separation of church and state and would like the constitution to be amended to allow prayer in the schools and subsidies of private religious schools by public tax payers.

Mr. Foley reminded the League that the three conventions held in 1950, 1968, and 1978, which wrote and proposed amendments to the Hawaii Constitution, all included more groups and more rights under the protection of the Hawaii Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and an independent judiciary. Mr. Foley said that those pushing to amend our state constitution want to turn the clock back. He urged members to the League to stand up and protect our constitution, its Bill of Rights, and its independent judiciary from the passions, prejudices, and politics of the day.

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