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.
The churches filed a 10-page reply to the state at 9:10 Friday morning, calling the state’s position “absurd.”
“The Church cannot be forced to allow its property to be used for a same-sex ceremony (an act of sacrilege, according to Church Teachings and the Gospel of Jesus Christ) anymore than Plaintiffs could be ordered to allow a civil union between a man and woman on church property (fornication),” the churches’ attorneys wrote.
The churches also argue that the court needs to handle the matter immediately, because they say the current law would allow the state attorney general or the Civil Rights Commission to prosecute churches for refusing to rent property for same-sex ceremonies or celebrations.
They warn that the court could soon face a groundswell of First Amendment cases from churches complaining that they can’t be required to rent to same-sex couples, if the law goes into effect.
Stay Up To Date On The Coronavirus And Other Hawaii Issues