1993: The Hawaii Case of Baehr vs. Lewin

1993 is seen as a landmark year in the legal history of same sex marriage. Nina Baehr filed a lawsuit against the state of Hawaii claiming that she and her same sex partner were illegal discriminated against by the state when it refused to issue a marriage license. The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in her favor and held that the ban on same sex marriages in the state amounted to discrimination. Under the state’s Equal Rights Amendment, the state can support such a ban only of there is a compelling state interest. While the court refrained from directly declaring the ban illegal, it made its stand clear. The Hawaii Supreme Court remanded the case back to the lower court to determine if there as any compelling state interest to support such a ban.

This case is seen as a landmark case because no state Supreme Court had until then held that same sex couples had the right to get married. While the impact of the decision was limited to the State of Hawaii, it was welcomed by gay right activists across the nation. The Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution (Article IV, Section 1) states that every state shall give full faith and credit to the public Acts, Records and court proceedings of other states: “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each state to the public Acts, Records and judicial Proceedings of every other state.” This meant that if one state recognizes same sex marriage, other states must accord legal recognition to a same sex marriage performed in the state that recognizes same sex marriages.

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