Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Hawaii Foundation today said they will sue Gov. Linda Lingle over her July 6 veto of House Bill 444, which would have allowed Hawaii civil unions.

In explaining her veto, Lingle said that the issue should be put before voters.

The details of the case, which is expected to be filed in 1st Circuit Court in Honolulu, are to be explained at a press conference scheduled for 10:30 a.m. The plaintiffs are identified as couples.

Attorneys for Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Hawaii Foundation declined Civil Beat’s request for more information about the case before the press conference.

However, ACLU attorney Lois Perrin told Civil Beat in early July that the case was likely to center on the Hawaii Constitution’s provision of equal rights and benefits. That provision was at the heart of Baehr v. Lewin, the 1993 case that sought marital rights for same-sex couples in Hawaii.

The state Supreme Court was the first to rule that excluding same-sex couples from marriage constituted discrimination.

In 1996, Baehr v. Miike (the defendant in both cases was director of the state’s Department of Health, which issues marriage licenses), a trial court called expert witnesses to testify on the state’s rationale for denying marriage. The trial court determined the reasons lacked merit.

But in 1998 Hawaii voters amended the state’s constitution to give the Legislature the power to define marriage as limited to a man and a woman, which it later did. In 1999, in Baehr v. Miike, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the state’s constitution no longer protected the right of lesbian and gay individuals to marry.

The 1993 case also led to passage of Hawaii’s Reciprocal Beneficiaries law, which provides some of the rights and benefits of marriage for same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

Lambda Legal is a national organization that fights for the civil rights of gays and lesbians. The ACLU advocates for constitutional freedoms.

Lambda Legal filed an amicus brief in the 1993 case. “Beyond Hawaii’s shores, the case launched one of the largest and most significant chapters in our movement for equality,” according to Lambda’s website.

Share your manao on whether the fate of Hawaii civil unions should be settled in court.

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