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Making History: Alumni Judges Help Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

In 1996, Kevin Chang BA ’75, JD ’78, who was at the time civil administrative judge for the O‘ahu First Circuit Court of Hawai‘i, ruled that the state of Hawai‘i had failed to show any compelling reason for the existing ban on same-sex marriage and declared it unconstitutional.

Although Chang’s groundbreaking decision would be reversed by the Hawai‘i Supreme Court, another alumnus’ opinion, argued on the same basis, would succeed in invalidating Oregon’s same-sex marriage ban 18 years later.

U.S. District Judge for the District of Oregon Michael McShane ’88 wrote in his 2014 ruling that “there is no legitimate state interest that would justify the denial of the full and equal recognition, attendant rights, benefits, protections, privileges, obligations, responsibilities, and immunities of marriage to same-gender couples.”

The following year, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Chang retired this past January, having most recently served as federal magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawai‘i. McShane continues to serve on the bench of the U.S. District Court of Oregon.

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