More than 170 gay men and lesbians sued a Florida court clerk Wednesday, challenging the state law prohibiting same-sex couples from obtaining marriage licenses. The suit, filed in Broward County court, is believed to be the first formal legal challenge to the state law specifying that marriage licenses be issued only to parties consisting of one male and one female.
"An idea whose time has come can never be stopped," said attorney Ellis Rubin, who represents the individuals filing the suit. "This idea's time is now."
The suit names only Broward County court clerk Howard Forman as a defendant. He issues wedding licenses in the county, following state laws. More than 3,200 couples, including some from Florida, have joined the San Francisco marriage rush in recent days. Those unions are not recognized in the Sunshine State, however, as Florida is among 39 states formally banning same-sex marriages.
"We're people, human beings, American citizens. We pay our taxes," said James Stewart, a retired teacher from Dania Beach. "It's an old clichéd line, but you know what? If we're going to pay our taxes, we deserve every right that should be granted to every American citizen."
A spokesman for Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother, on Wednesday reaffirmed the governor's belief "in the sanctity of marriage." "The governor believes marriage should be between a man and a woman," spokesman Jacob DiPietre said. "We've had a law on the books in Florida since 1977 banning gay marriage, and the governor took an oath of office to uphold the laws of the state."
Some Florida cities and counties, including Broward, recognize certain aspects of commitments existing outside the parameters of traditional marriage between a man and a woman. Gay and lesbian employees on Broward County's payrolls are eligible to have their same-sex partner covered by their work-provided health insurance as well as receive other benefits typically extended to spouses of the opposite sex.