Groups attempt to intervene in marriage equality lawsuit

By : Jamie Hyman
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Miami-  Several anti-gay Florida-based groups filed a motion to intervene in Florida’s marriage equality lawsuit.

According to court documents, Liberty Counsel represents the groups behind the motion— Florida Family Action, People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality and Florida Democratic League. It was filed Feb. 25 in the same Miami-Dade court where the marriage equality lawsuit was filed. Florida Family Action is a partner group of Florida Family Policy Council, run by notorious anti-gay activist John Stemberger.

“It’s not surprising and it doesn’t change anything,” said Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida. “Their theatrics are irrelevant to the situation. We remain focused on getting our day in court and standing up for our spouses and our children.”

The Equality Florida Institute is also listed on the original marriage equality lawsuit as a plaintiff. Equality Florida (EQFL) is the state’s largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s LGBT community through lobbying, grassroots organization and education. Equality Florida Institute is EQFL’s sister organization, a non-for-profit that educates the public, elected officials, and businesses about issues of importance to the LGBT community.

According to court documents, the motion to intervene is closely tied to defending Amendment 2, Florida’s constitutional ban on marriage equality approved by voters in 2008.

The motion claims that if marriage equality is granted in Florida, it “will infringe upon the constitutional and statutory rights of Intervenors and their members to free speech, free exercise of religion, and other rights attendant to operating businesses and non-profit organizations in accordance with the definition of marriage as currently memorialized in the Florida Constitution.”

The original lawsuit was filed in January against Miami Dade County Clerk of Courts Harvey Ruvin after Ruvin refused to grant the six plaintiff couples marriage licenses. The Feb. 25 motion claims that as a plaintiff, Ruvin does not adequately represent the interests of the parties attempting to intervene.

“Accordingly, the Clerk has no stake in preserving and protecting the underlying societal norms and social good attendant to the definition of marriage, nor does the Clerk have any stake in safeguarding the citizens’ voting rights,” the motion reads.

Finally, the motion argues that the requested intervention would not unduly delay the lawsuit proceedings.

“This lawsuit threatens to disenfranchise millions of Floridians who voted to affirm natural marriage and to supplant the clearly expressed will of a supermajority of Florida’s voters with the radical vision of homosexual activists who cannot win at the ballot box,” said Horatio Mihet, Liberty Counsel’s Senior Litigation Counsel, in a media release.

A 60% majority was needed to approve Amendment 2. Just 62% of voters approved the measure.

“This is just more indication of how shrill and desperate their arguments have become,” Smith said. “We remain confident that the real harm that’s been done to our family and the consequences of discrimination will be cleared in a court of law and that our rights will be protected. The bottom line is we’re still on our path to having our day in court.”

The original lawsuit fighting for marriage equality was filed Jan. 21 in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida, challenging that Amendment 2 and other Florida laws banning marriage equality, are unconstitutional.

The legal team representing the plaintiffs is made up of law firm Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, attorney Elizabeth F. Schwartz, Orlando attorney Mary B. Meeks and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).

The plaintiffs, all Miami-Dade County-based couples, are: Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello; Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price; Vanessa and Melanie Alenier; Todd and Jeff Delmay; Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber; and Don Price Johnston and Jorge Isaias Diaz.

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