Ten same-sex couples sue for right to marry in Florida
Ten same-sex couples seeking to end the state's ban on gay marriage filed suit in Palm Beach County circuit court. The suit, which names 15th district circuit court clerk Dorothy H. Wilken as a defendant, asks the court to assert "that the right to marry is fundamental and that any restrictions on fundamental rights are presumed unconstitutional."
Two couples named as plaintiffs were denied marriage licenses Tuesday. Miami attorney Ellis Rubin filed the suit two days later, adding to similar challenges he made in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
Despite the lawsuits, Florida is not considered a battleground state in the national debate over gay marriage. Since 1997, state laws have defined marriage as "a legal union between one man and one woman." But the suit argues that the ban on gay marriage sends "a stigmatizing message...that leads to legal, social, financial, and psychological injuries."
Among the plaintiffs are the subjects of the award-winning documentary Ruthie & Connie: Every Room in the House. Ruth Berman and Connie Kurtz sued the New York City board of education in 1988 for domestic-partner benefits, winning the case five years later. The couple moved to West Palm Beach last year.
Rubin says his pro bono legal efforts are atonement for representing antigay crusader Anita Bryant more than two decades ago. But some gay activists object to his methods. Nadine Smith, executive director of the gay rights group Equality Florida, said she is "deeply troubled" that he is taking on the legal battle without conferring with the gay rights organizations that have been fighting for years.