Wednesday, December 4, 2002


Lawyer helped bring
same-sex marriages
to statewide attention

More obituaries

By Pat Gee

Kirk H. Cashmere, a civil-rights attorney who helped make same-sex marriage a major issue in Hawaii, died Dec. 2. He was 47.

He was of three attorneys who represented three same-sex couples who wanted to be legally married in Hawaii. In 1996, then-Circuit Judge Kevin Chang ruled that the state failed to show any compelling reason to ban same-sex marriages.

That led to a hotly debated 1998 constitutional amendment giving the Legislature power to limit marriage to people of the opposite gender.

A friend of 26 years, Trudie Schandler-Wong, said "civil rights was his main mission."

"He took upon himself any group that was not being treated equally or fairly," Schandler-Wong said.

Cashmere was the American Civil Liberties Union's attorney in a challenge to the state's Good Friday holiday contending it violated the principle of separation of church and state, but a federal judge rejected the case in 1987.

Nancy Kern, the HIV/STD Prevention Coordinator under the state Department of Health, said Cashmere "worked truly selflessly to advocate for people not recognized or were discriminated against."

"He was always there for the underdog. He was so well-respected in the community for so many different reasons. He worked so hard to bring people together. He was honest and forthright. ... His loss is huge to our state," Kern said.

Kern was on the Governor's Committee on HIV/AIDS with Cashmere in the late 1980s and early '90s. He was instrumental in drafting policy on "confidentiality and informed consent," among other rights of HIV/AIDS victims, and "made sure these compassionate and protective laws were passed," Kern said.

David Brustein, an attorney and personal friend for 17 years, said Cashmere was an "absolutely brilliant, brilliant attorney" and a "very religious, spiritual person; a good-hearted soul." Cashmere took on the controversial gay rights cases because "no one else was doing it."

"It was new at the time ... and he was not afraid of tough issues," Brustein said.

Schandler-Wong said Cashmere observed every Jewish holiday and flew special religious items in from the mainland. Every holiday was "more joyous and complete with him there. ... We knew the wheres and the whys" of a holiday because of him.

"He was a perfectionist, and it carried over to his legal work," she added. "Kirk held himself to the highest of standards, but he brought his friends all along with it."

Born in Wisconsin, Cashmere's family moved to Hawaii when he was 5. He attended Iolani School and graduated from Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., where he majored in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies. Cashmere earned his law degree from the University of Hawaii's William S. Richardson School of Law.

He served as legal director for the ACLU, and worked with the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii and the Life Foundation. He was a member of the state Ethics Commission.

Cashmere is survived by mother Eileen, brother Randy and half-sister Chantelle Goldstein.

Graveside services were held yesterday. A memorial service is set for 2 p.m. Sunday at Temple Emanu-El, 2550 Pali Highway. No flowers are requested.

Donations may be made to the Rabbi Morris and Helen Goldfarb Education Fund at Temple Emanu-El, the Life Foundation or the Congregation Sof Maarav.

E-mail to City Desk


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