A federal U.S. court has ruled that a Hawaiian law which defines marriage as between a man and a woman does not violate the U.S. Constitution.
The ruling by Judge Alan. C. Kay on Wednesday broke a string of court losses by advocates for traditional marriage on the subject of same-sex marriage.
It comes before the Supreme Court is expected to hear a case on California's Proposition 8, which defined marriage in the same way before it was struck down by the Ninth Circuit Court which ruled that it was unconstitutional.
It is believed that Wednesday's ruling is set to be appealed to the same court, generally considered one of the most liberal courts in the nation.
At issue in Hawaii was a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 1998 giving the legislature the power to define marriage in the traditional sense, which legislators subsequently did.
A lesbian couple and a gay man filed suit in federal court last year against Hawaii officials, arguing the amendment and law violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. But Judge Kay ruled the legislature had a rational interest defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
"Throughout history and societies, marriage has been connected with procreation and childrearing," he wrote in his 117-page decision. "... The legislature could rationally conclude that on a societal level, the institution of marriage acts to reinforce 'the important legal and normative link between heterosexual intercourse and procreation on the one hand and family responsibilities on the other.'"
The legislature, Judge Kay wrote, could "also rationally conclude that other things being equal, it is best for children to be raised by a parent of each sex."
"Both sides presented evidence on this issue and both sides pointed out flaws in their opponents' evidence," he wrote of parenting. "Thus, the Court concludes this rationale is at least debatable and therefore sufficient."
The issue, he added, is up to the legislature.
"In this situation, to suddenly constitutionalise the issue of same-sex marriage 'would short-circuit' the legislative actions that have been taking place in Hawaii," he wrote.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which assists groups taking legal cases defending the family and religious freedom, represented the Hawaii Family Forum in defending the law. Hawaii Family Forum was allowed to intervene after Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, refused to defend the law in court.
"This ruling affirms that protecting and strengthening marriage as the union of one man and one woman is legitimate, reasonable, and good for society," ADF attorney Dale Schowengerdt said in a statement. "The people of Hawaii adopted a constitutional amendment to uphold marriage, and the court rightly concluded that the democratic process shouldn't be short-circuited by judicial decree."
The case eventually could have a major impact on the nation because 30 states have amended their constitutions to define marriage as between one man and one woman.