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An Haw. R. Civ. P. 12(c) motion serves much the same purpose as an Haw. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion, except that it is made after the pleadings are closed. A Rule 12(c) motion for a judgment on the pleadings only has utility when all material allegations of fact are admitted in the pleadings and only questions of law remain. A claim that is evidentiary in nature and requires findings of fact to resolve cannot properly be disposed of under the rubric of Haw. R. Civ. P. 12(c).
Plaintiff marriage applicants, Ninia Baehr, Genora Dancel, Tammy Rodrigues, Antoinette Pregil, Pat Lagon, Joseph Melilio, were denied marriage licenses pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. § 572-1 (1985) by Department of Health because they were same-sex couples. Plaintiffs filed a complaint declaring that the section of the Hawaii Marriage Law enumerating the requisites of a valid marriage contract is unconstitutional insofar as it is construed and applied by defendant to justify its refusal to issue a marriage license on the sole basis that the applicant couple is of the same sex. Defendant John Lewin in his capacity as the Director of Department of Health, urged that the plaintiffs' complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The trial court granted defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings, resulting in the dismissal of plaintiffs' action. Plaintiffs then sought review of the decision.
Did the trial court err in granting defendant’s motion?
The court held that the trial court's grant of defendant's Rule 12(c) motion was improper because the trial court made evidentiary factual findings and formulated conclusions of law. The court vacated the trial court's decision and remanded the action. The court determined that although the right to marry was a fundamental freedom, under Haw. Const. art. I, § 6, the right to privacy did not include a fundamental right to same-sex marriage. However, because Haw. Rev. Stat. § 572-1 (1985) discriminated on the basis of sex by limiting marriage licenses to male-female couples, plaintiffs were entitled to an evidentiary hearing to determine whether § 572-1 furthered compelling state interests and was narrowly drawn to avoid unnecessarily violating plaintiffs' equal protection rights under Haw. Const. art. I, § 5.