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State can regulate public beach weddings

June 14, 2012
The Maui Weekly

The Maui News - Hawai'i can regulate weddings on public beaches without violating people's right to marry, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

Permits required by the state help protect the islands' more than 200 public beaches, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said.

"We recognize that the right to marry is a fundamental right," the ruling says. "But regulation of commercial weddings on unencumbered state beaches does not impinge on the right to marry."

Hawai'i is 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 its sandy shores.

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, commercial recreational beach activities were largely unregulated, the ruling says, 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 beach area, with a minimum of $20 per event. Liability insurance also is required.

Wedding planners were concerned 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. He said 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."

The beaches are a precious resource, said Joshua Wisch, spokesman for the state attorney general, and the court "recognized that the state has an important role in protecting those beaches, and regulating commercial activity is a part of that."



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