Where EAST meets the Northwest
BEACH BUREAUCRACY. In this file photo provided by Robert Hamilton, bride
Sandra, right, and groom Sandy walk on the beach during a November 28, 2008
beach wedding at Lanikai Beach in Kailua, Hawaii. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals has upheld Hawaii’s right to regulate commercial weddings on public
beaches. The court ruled that beach wedding permits required by the state
Department of Land and Natural Resources do not violate the First Amendment, but
that the power to revoke or modify a permit at any time does. (AP Photo/Robert
From The Asian Reporter, V22, #12 (June 18, 2012), page 8.
Federal court says Hawaii can regulate beach weddings
By Jennifer Sinco Kelleher
The Associated Press
HONOLULU — Hawaii can regulate weddings on public beaches without violating
people’s right to marry, according to a federal appeals court.
Beach wedding permits required by the state Department of Land and Natural
Resources (DNLR) 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 said.
"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 to marry."
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 shore.
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 10 cents per square foot of requested beach area, with a minimum
of $20 per event. Liability insurance is also required.
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 cost of insurance.
State officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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 scenario."