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Guest post by Jennifer K. Halford, Esq.
Saying "I do" on the beaches of Hawaii still requires a permit, a federal appeals court ruled this week.
The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resource (DLNR) began requiring permits for commercial weddings in August 2008.
Since then applicants have paid 10 cents for each square foot of beach requested up to $20. The permit limits the wedding to two hours and requires couples to purchase event insurance. Attendees are told they cannot disturb other beachgoers and they must leave the beach in its natural condition.
These permit restrictions led wedding planners and Laki Kaahumanu, a Native Hawaiian pastor, to file a federal lawsuit. They claimed the permit requirements violate the First Amendment and the equal protection clause of the Constitution.
"They're not requiring permits for the guy who wants to have a birthday party on the beach, but they want to charge for a spiritual union? People are already spending a lot of money to come and stay here," Kaahumanu told USA TODAY.
But the court disagreed. The court said that the permit regulations protect more than 200 public beaches in the islands. And the application process is online and easy to complete.
Kaahumanu and the wedding planners were also worried that the DLNR could arbitrarily revoke or alter permits.
"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.
The court addressed this concern by saying that state officials cannot revoke or add conditions to a permit after it is issued.
Beach weddings are still permitted in Hawaii. Just get your permit first.
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.