Plaintiffs want state marriage equality ban ruled unconstitutional

By : Jamie Hyman
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Miami – The plaintiffs in Florida’s marriage equality lawsuit are filing a new motion, requesting that the state’s ban on marriage equality be ruled unconstitutional.

The original lawsuit was filed in January. The plaintiffs are Equality Florida Institute and six South Florida same-sex couples: 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.

“This is the big deal,” said Orlando attorney and LGBT activist Mary B. Meeks, who is part of the team representing the plaintiffs. “Once we get a hearing and if we prevail on this motion, it’s over and we win.”

The motion, filed May 1, states that Amendment 2, Florida’s ban on marriage equality, cannot stand in light of the Supreme Court ruling that the federal Defense of Marriage Act was ruled unconstitutional. It also states that subsequent state court cases since the DOMA ruling support the assertion that Florida’s ban is unconstitutional.

“By barring same-sex couples from the fundamental right to marry, Florida’s marriage ban intentionally disadvantages them and discriminates on the basis of gender. There is no rational justification for that ban, much less a justification that would suffice under the heightened scrutiny required by the precedents that govern this case,” the motion reads.

“We are excited to get this dispositive pleading filed and to get these incredibly important legal arguments before a Florida court for the first time,” Meeks said. “We look forward to having our day in court soon and establishing the fundamental right to marry for these amazing Plaintiff couples, and for all gay Floridians.”

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

In other marriage equality news in the Sunshine State, a federal judge rejected a motion by an anti-gay group to intervene in two lawsuits on the matter.

On April 24, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle denied a request by Florida Family Action, Inc. represented by the Liberty Counsel, to intervene the cases. The first is Grimsley v. Scott—a lawsuit filed by eight Florida same-sex couples legally married elsewhere who are fighting to have their marriages recognized in Florida. The second lawsuit is Brenner v. Scott—filed on behalf of a couple who got married in Canada, now live in Tallahassee, and want Florida to recognize their marriage.

The ruling states that in order to intervene, Florida Family Action must either cite a federal statute giving them that right or demonstrate a direct interest in the issue argued in the case.

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