Same-sex couples sue for marriage in Florida
April 17 2004 12:00 AM ET
Gay rights advocates representing six same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses in Florida filed suit on Thursday asking a judge to overturn the state's ban on gay marriages. The lawsuit was filed in state court in Key West. It has set the battle for equal marriage rights in heavily populated Florida, where Gov. Jeb Bush, the brother of President Bush, favors a national constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The lawsuit was timed to coincide with the April 15 deadline to file U.S. income taxes. "Today is the first time in our nation's history that we, having been legally married in Canada and in cities throughout the nation, are being told by the federal government to lie and file 'single' on our tax returns," said Stratton Pollitzer, regional director for Equality Florida, a statewide gay rights group that has 30,000 supporters.
Florida's "defense of marriage" act, passed in 1997, defines marriage as a union of a man and a woman and bans recognition of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. The complaint said marriage restrictions based on gender and sexual orientation violate the Florida constitution's guarantees of equal protection, due process, and privacy rights. At a ceremony outside the Monroe County Courthouse in Key West, one of the plaintiffs, the Reverend Geoff Leonard, a pastor at Key West's Metropolitan Community Church, choked back tears and said, "I want to marry my partner, Steven. We're not going to change people's minds. We are asking the state to treat us equally."
In Orgeon, supporters and opponents of gay marriage filed briefs Wednesday for a lawsuit expected to decide the issue for the city of Portland. The documents cited human-sexuality experts and explored the intentions of Oregon's founders in making their cases. Oral arguments are set for Friday, and a judge is expected to rule by the end of April on whether Multnomah County commissioners acted lawfully when they decided to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. "If the court finds the law unconstitutional, the judge has only two options: to order the county not to issue licenses to anybody or to continue what it is doing now," said David Fidanque, Oregon director of the American Civil Liberties Union.