Hawaii's Beach Wedding Permits Constitutional, 9th Circuit Rules

By Guest Writer on June 11, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Guest post by Jennifer K. Halford, Esq.

The right to marry is a fundamental right. And Hawaii's requirement that couples obtain a permit to marry on its beaches does not violate that right , the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resource (DLNR) began requiring permits for commercial weddings in August 2008.

So how much is your golden-sand, dream wedding going to set you back?

Applicants are required to pay 10 cents for each square foot of beach requested up to $20. The permit limits the wedding to two hours. No alcohol is allowed. Insurance is required. Attendees cannot disturb other beachgoers. And they must leave the beach in its natural condition.

Maui wedding planners and Laki Kaahumanu, a Native Hawaiian pastor, filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the permit requirement violates the First Amendment and the equal protection clause of the Constitution .

But the 9th Circuit disagreed. The court held that permit regulations protect more than 200 public beaches in the islands. The application process is online and easy to complete. And the DLNR has not denied one application yet.

The court did strike down two parts of the permit process it deemed unconstitutional. The first allowed the DLNR to revoke an already issued permit at any time and for any reason. The second allowed the DLNR to add terms and conditions to an already issued permit.

This part of the court's decision will provide peace of mind to those who are planning a wedding. "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," plaintiffs' attorney James Fosbinder told The Seattle Times .

Jennifer K. Halford is an attorney whose practice focuses on business law and estate planning. She is also a professor at California State University, Chico, where she teaches Entrepreneurial Law.

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