Saturday, October 23, 1999

100 Who Made A Difference

Star Daniel R. Foley Star

Star-Bulletin file photo
Attorney Daniel R. Foley is known for representing
three couples in a same-sex marriage case.

Attorney fights
for civil rights

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


DANIEL R. Foley was fresh out of college when he signed up with the Peace Corps and went to the southeastern African country of Lesotho in 1969.

After seeing myriad constitutional abuses over two years there, Foley made the decision that he was going to be a civil-rights attorney.

"It impressed upon me the importance of the legal process and its role in a nation of laws," Foley said.

Foley, now 52, has become one of Hawaii's most influential civil-rights attorneys since arriving in Honolulu in 1984 as the first legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union's Hawaii office.

Foley is perhaps best known for successfully representing three gay couples in their quest to be legally married in Hawaii.

While the issue is still being debated in the state Legislature and the Hawaii Supreme Court, Foley successfully argued before Circuit Judge Kevin Chang that same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights and privileges of traditional couples.

"That case has had national and international implications," said Vanessa Chong, ACLU executive director.

Foley said he believed the chances were slim that he could win the same-sex marriage case but took it anyway "because I felt these people should have their day in court."

The San Francisco native also argued successfully on behalf of prison inmates in a class-action lawsuit that charged prison conditions in the state constituted cruel and unjust punishments. The judgment led to a number of prison reforms.

Foley also represented the Save Sandy Beach Coalition, which fought successfully to stop development across from the famed East Honolulu beach.

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