The U.S. Supreme Court issued a pair of significant, but incomplete victories for supporters of same sex marriage on Wednesday.
In one case, the court says legally married same-sex couples should get the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.
In the second 5-4 ruling, the justices found that California's Proposition 8 ban on same sex marriage is unconstitutional. However, they did not touch the issue of same-sex marriage itself.
President Barack Obama praised the court's ruling on the federal marriage act, which he labeled "discrimination enshrined in law."
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he was disappointed in the outcome of the federal marriage case and hoped states continue to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
"We're disappointed in the short-term results and the short-term questions that remain unsettled, but the public conversation continues and that's a good thing," said the Rev. Rob Schenck, president of the Evangelical Church Alliance, which opposes same-sex marriage.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie said, "In Hawaii, we believe in fairness, justice and human equality, and that everyone is entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else, including the ability to get married. So I am pleased that the Supreme Court, in the Hollingsworth v. Perry case, did not overturn the federal district court’s ruling striking down Proposition 8 -- which attempted to bar same sex marriage in California -- thereby effectively allowing same sex couples in California to be married."
"Although the Supreme Court did not directly require that same sex couples in other states be allowed to marry, I am encouraged by the fact that language in the Windsor ruling supports my position in the Hawaii lawsuit, which is currently pending in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In that lawsuit, I argue the Constitution’s equal protection clause requires same sex marriage in all states, including Hawaii," Gov. Abercrombie. "I believe my position to support a constitutional right to same sex marriage in Hawaii and elsewhere was given a substantial boost by today’s Supreme Court rulings. I will continue to work to assure justice and equality for all."
"What the court did was they found that DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) itself was unconstitutional and violated the Fifth Amendment and that there should be no discrimination against couples because of who they happened to be married," said Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. "And I thought that was a great victory and one that was long overdue for same-sex couples."
Pro same-sex marriage group Hawaii United for Marriage applauded the Supreme Court decisions that struck down a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act and cleared the way for legal same- sex marriages in California.
"This is a huge victory for loving, married couples and their families across the country," said Lois Perrin, Legal Director of the ACLU of Hawaii and founding member of HUM. "This high court ruling affirms that all committed couples who marry deserve equal legal respect and treatment."
Perrin said DOMA forced the federal government to pick and choose among marriages, and discriminate against some families through what became known as the "gay exception." That exception caused pain and financial harm.
Wednesday’s ruling means that couples in states which recognize marriage between same-sex couples can better protect one another and their families because they will finally be included in the federal safety net.
However, the Supreme Court's decision will not change the fact that same-sex couples are not allowed to marry in Hawaii because the state has not enacted a marriage equality bill. Lawmakers approved a resolution to convene a task force to study marriage equality, and that task force has been instructed to examine the high court’s rulings in both the DOMA case and the Proposition 8 case in California.
Same-sex marriage has been adopted by 12 states and the District of Columbia. Another 18,000 couples were married in California during a brief period when same-sex unions were legal there.
"I believe that the Hawaii Legislature is going to look very seriously as to whether it is Hawaii's time," said Rep. Hanabusa.