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Six same-sex couples sue to overturn Fla. gay marriage ban

Tuesday, January 21, 2014
NCLRPlaintiffs (from left): Don Johnston and Jorge Isaias Diaz, Jeff and Todd Delmay, Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price, Vanessa and Melane Alenier, Summer Grace and Pamela Faerber. (Nit pictured: Catherina Pareta and Karla Arguello.)

NCLR
Plaintiffs (from left): Don Johnston and Jorge Isaias Diaz, Jeff and Todd Delmay, Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price, Vanessa and Melane Alenier, Summer Grace and Pamela Faerber. (Nit pictured: Catherina Pareta and Karla Arguello.)

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Six gay couples filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to overturn Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage, the latest in a series of cases across the country that contend such prohibitions are unconstitutional and effectively relegate gay partners to second-class status.

The lawsuit was filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court on behalf of the couples by Equality Florida Institute Inc., a civil rights organization that works for fairness for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

The lawsuit claims Florida’s gay marriage ban violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process.

The couples, many of whom have children and have been together for years, said they see no reason to be forced to move to a state that permits same-sex marriage when they have built lives in Florida. Vanessa Alenier, who is raising a 5-year-old son with partner Melanie Alenier, said they decided to share the same last name to come a s close to marriage as possible – but the same-sex ban blocks that final step.

“We want our son to understand that his family is secure and just as respected as any other family,” said Vanessa Alenier. “Melanie and I have worked so hard to build and protect our family, but nothing can come close to matching the protections that marriage provides.”

Similar claims have been made in other states, including Oklahoma and Utah, where judges recently struck down gay marriage bans as discriminatory. Elizabeth Schwartz, an attorney working on the Florida case, said there are about 40 lawsuits pending around the country seeking to end bans on same-sex marriage.

Florida voters enshrined a ban on same-sex marriage in the state constitution in 2008. It states that in Florida “marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife,” and no other unions can be recognized.

The Florida Family Policy Council, which led the push for passage of the amendment, noted that it was adopted by 62 percent of voters that year.

“Gay activists cannot win in the marketplace, so they have resorted to trying to find renegade courts who have little respect for the rule of law to create social change that would never happen through the people or their elected representatives,” said John Stemberger, the group’s president and general counsel. “We will spend as much time and money as necessary to oppose those who seek to redefine marriage in Florida.”

The lawsuit’s advocates, however, say attitudes toward gay marriage have changed in Florida and elsewhere since 2008, with many opinion polls showing broad support for ending same-sex bans.

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican-turned-Democrat who is seeking is old job once again, said in a statement he backs the lawsuit.

“No one would want to be told they can’t marry the person they love. It’s an issue of fairness and I’m proud to support it,” said Crist, who hopes to challenge incumbent GOP Gov. Rick Scott in the fall election.

The law will be defended in court by the office of Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican. Officials there did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Because they cannot marry, gay couples in Florida do not share many rights and responsibilities with opposite-sex couples. For example, gays often cannot make health care decisions for an incapacitated partner. They cannot receive worker’s compensation for a partner who dies on the job. They cannot get spousal insurance coverage and benefits. The list goes on.

Gay rights advocates have already won one key legal victory in Florida when, in 2010, the state decided not to appeal a decision striking down the state’s decades-old ban on adoptions by gay people.

Associated Press contributed to this report.
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40 more reader comments:

  1. THANK GOD MY HOME STATE IS FINALLY DOING SOMETHING RIGHT!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:09pm
  2. Woohoo! I would love to see so many that I love be able to get married

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:10pm
  3. Finally! I’m tired of the other 49 states talking so much shit about Florida.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:10pm
  4. Well, maybe if the state had 21st century sex ed, or even 21st century education...we wouldnt... And I feel I can judge the place being that I lived there 7.5 years... And watched the idiots create the housing bubble and then pop it...

    Replied on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:38pm
  5. Well if you'd rather complain than actually do something to fix what's going on (vote, volunteer) then I'm glad you left because nobody asked for your opinion.

    Replied on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:40pm
  6. then stop voting in the Republican thugs

    Replied on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 7:06pm
  7. Amanda R Vargas

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:12pm
  8. Yes Yes Yes!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:12pm
  9. in gay friendly Florida? this should end quick

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:12pm
  10. GO GET THEM YALL!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:12pm
  11. If they win, that will be the impetus I need to make my decision on where to retire.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:16pm
  12. add a 7th couple for more luck ;).

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:17pm
  13. I wonder how I can make it happen in Kansas help????

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:19pm
  14. Kick ass, people. Stay strong.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:19pm
  15. I hope you all win :)

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:19pm
  16. Amen to that!!! I can’t wait

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:32pm
  17. Thank you, couples…

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:34pm
  18. Great news on the way there Florida !!!!* :)

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:36pm
  19. Omg Omg Omg!!!! I love this!!!! Yay!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:38pm
  20. equality of marriage now

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:39pm
  21. Go get’em! Thanks for your courage and conviction!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:42pm
  22. Bless you kind folks!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:49pm
  23. If there were 6 couples you’d think there would be 12 people in the picture, not 10 xD

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:51pm
  24. Wow, 6! Usually it’s just 1 or 2 couples. Bringing the fight to the table now! :)

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:51pm
  25. yay!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:57pm
  26. OK but the picture shows 5 couples not six…did the other 2 not want to be in the picture? JW

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:59pm
  27. Good luck!!! Equality will win…

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:10pm
  28. Yea!!! Florida would be the closest state (geographically speaking) to me to recognize marriage equality!!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:15pm
  29. go get em!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:18pm
  30. Hope marriage equality comes to Florida very soon!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:36pm
  31. Way to go guys. My partner and I live here in Gainesville and have been together going on 11 years. We have a 16 year old son and would like nothing more that for our marriage to be recognized here in the state we reside. I saw a post from Fox 51 where they were asking people their opinion on Gay Marriage. A woman said NO marriage is man and woman. I clicked her photo out of curiosity an she is married to an African American Man and has 2 beautiful mixed race children. I asked her how she could be so close minded. Not that long ago her marriage was illegal and sometimes resulted in death. I told her that she had a beautiful family and shame on her for saying what she said about another minority group! I hope you all win and your names recorded in the history books. :)

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:42pm
  32. you mean you can shoot and kill people and get away with it but 2 people in love cant get married? something wrong with this picture.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:42pm
  33. Why should anyone care whom you choose to marry. This is still a free country for now

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:44pm
  34. ♡♡♡

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 7:34pm
  35. Go Florida I hope you are the next state to get same sex marriage but, I also hope the us will soon realize that every state should have same sex marriage and I hope that every state will give full lgbt rights too all of it’s citizens because we are a free country and everyone deserves equal rights.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 8:45pm
  36. I wish you all the best because it will give hope and every single gay boy and lesbian girl out there that may want to get legally married someday. I’m 33 1/2 years old, I was born and raised in Florida, I pay my taxes every time, I vote when it’s time to vote, I work hard at my job, I love my family, I’m a Christian, and yes I’m a lesbian. And someday I want the right to say yes to my girlfriend(when I have one) and when she ask me, I want to be able to say yes with all my heart and I want to plan a “wedding” not a “commitment ceremony”. Why? A wedding means I’ll be legally married just like everyone of my loved ones. A commitment ceremony wouldn’t give me and my girlfriend any rights.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 9:00pm
  37. Yes!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 9:17pm
  38. Maybe We won’t have to move away.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 9:17pm
  39. YA! Good Luck!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 9:23pm
  40. cant blame ppl for wanting the best for the ppl they love

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 9:35pm