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Federal court: Hawaii can regulate beach weddings
By Jennifer Sinco Kelleher
— Hawaii can regulate weddings on public beaches without violating people's
right to marry, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.
Beach wedding permits required by the state
Department of Land and Natural Resources serve a significant governmental
interest by protecting more than 200 public beaches in the islands that are
under the department's jurisdiction, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
"We recognize that the right to marry
is a fundamental right," the ruling states. "But DNLR's regulation of
commercial weddings on unencumbered state beaches does not impinge on the right
Hawaii is rapidly becoming a popular
location for destination weddings, with couples from all over the world
bringing friends and family to the islands to witness their nuptials on a sandy
During the late 1990s and early 2000s,
commercial recreational beach activities were largely unregulated, the ruling
notes, resulting in congestion of some public beaches.
In 2008, the state began requiring permits
for commercial weddings. The permit fee is required per event. Liability
insurance is also required. If you hire a wedding planner who already has the
insurance, the cost is minimal, although if you ask for a permit for your
wedding directly from the State, they will charge you an additional fee for the
insurance, which may be an additional $75 more.
The requirements prompted a lawsuit by
Pastor Laki Kaahumanu and a group of Maui wedding planners, who argued they
violate the First Amendment.
The planners complained that the rules hurt
business, especially with the rising costs of insurance.
State officials did not immediately respond
to requests for comment Wednesday.
A major concern was that state officials
could arbitrarily revoke or cancel permits and that sometimes weddings were
interrupted to do so, said the plaintiffs' Maui attorney, James Fosbinder. The
ruling should calm those fears, saying state officials can't revoke a permit after
it's been issued.
"Wedding planners want to know that
once they get a permit, it won't be taken away, especially if you've got family
coming from the mainland," Fosbinder said. "That was the nightmare