Gay Couple Settles Lawsuit against University of Hawai`i Following Denial of Family Housing
(Honolulu, August 29, 2008) — A gay couple not allowed to move back into family housing at the University of Hawai`i, Mânoa, has settled their lawsuit against the school.
The University has revised its housing policy to provide accommodation for committed same-sex couples like Joe and Phi, and the lawsuit settled to the mutual satisfaction of the parties.
Lambda Legal represented Phi Ngo and Joseph O'Leary in their lawsuit, filed March 10, 2008. During the 2006-2007 school year, Phi and Joseph lived in family housing on the main campus of the University of Hawai'i (Mânoa) while O'Leary worked toward a degree in history. They reapplied for family housing for the 2007 – 2008 school year, but the university denied their request. In a letter dated May 30, 2007, the interim director of University Housing Services stated that the University "recognizes marital status as defined in Section 572-1 of the Hawai'i Revised Statutes," which restricts the term "marriage" to different-sex couples. The letter went on to state that "[u]ntil such time that the state revises its definition of marital status, we will continue to apply the existing definition to our assignment policy for married housing."
In other words, the university said that it denied Ngo and O'Leary housing merely because they are not a married couple. However, the Supreme Court of Hawai`i has already held that the denial of any of the benefits of marriage to same-sex couples constitutes discrimination in violation of the Hawai`i Constitution. Lambda Legal submitted a friend-of-the court brief in that case and was later more directly involved in the second round of litigation in that case.
Brian Chase of Lambda Legal was counsel in O'Leary v. University of Hawai`i. Clyde Wadsworth of Alston, Hunt, Floyd and Ing was co-counsel.
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Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.