State Says Halting Civil Unions Would Be 'Devastating' for Hawaii

The Hawaii attorney general's office says blocking civil unions would "wreak havoc" on the state.

The statement came in a response to a lawsuit filed by two churches seeking to prevent Hawaii's new civil unions law from going into effect on New Year's Day.

The pastors of the churches — Lighthouse Outreach and Emmanuel Temple, the House of Praise — argue that the new law violates their civil rights because it fails to exempt clergy and churches from hosting civil union ceremonies.

The state, in its 24-page response filed Thursday night, says that the plaintiffs have created an artificial problem, since the law allows them to refuse to host civil union ceremonies, and that blocking civil unions would be harmful for the local economy — especially the tourism industry.

"Clearly, such a move would be devastating to Hawaii’s tourism industry, and to the State of Hawaii as a whole," the document declares. "This factor is not even close. Notably, Plaintiffs have not addressed this issue in their moving papers, and appear to not have considered how the issuance of the injunction they seek would wreak havoc on our islands’ economies, the State’s goodwill, and the State’s future as a whole."

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Seabright is reviewing all the documents in the case today, according to court staff, and is expected to issue an order by the end of the day.

The state's response concludes that the court should deny the churches' request for a temporary restraining order for several reasons, including that they're not likely to succeed and that the public interest favors the state.

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