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Florida Gay Couples File Suit Seeking Right To Marry

FORT LAUDERDALE - More than 170 gay men and women filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging the Florida law prohibiting them from obtaining marriage licenses. The suit, filed in Broward County court, is believed to be the first formal legal challenge to the state law specifying that marriage licenses be issued only to parties consisting of one
/ Source: wfla.com

FORT LAUDERDALE - More than 170 gay men and women filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging the Florida law prohibiting them from obtaining marriage licenses.

The suit, filed in Broward County court, is believed to be the first formal legal challenge to the state law specifying that marriage licenses be issued only to parties consisting of onemale and one female.

``An idea whose time has come can never be stopped,'' said attorney Ellis Rubin, who represents the 175 plaintiffs. ``This idea's time is now.''

The suit names only Broward Court Clerk Howard Forman as a defendant. He issues wedding licenses in the county, following state laws.

The recent furor over same-sex unions was sparked by a Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling that barring gay couples from marriage is unconstitutional and further fueled by the recent decision by officials in SanFrancisco - in apparent defiance of California law - to allow homosexuals to wed.

More than 3,200 couples, including some from Florida, have joined the California marriage rush in recent days. Those unions are not recognized in the Sunshine State, however, as Florida isamong 38 states formally banning same-sex unions.

``We're people, human beings, American citizens. We pay our taxes,'' said James Stewart, a retired teacher from Dania Beach. ``It's an old cliched line, but you know what? If we're going to pay our taxes, we deserve every right that should be granted to every American citizen.''

President Bush urged Congress Tuesday to approve a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, virtually ensuring that the topic will be a source of debate during this year'spresidential campaign.

Bush's top Democratic challengers, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, both oppose gay marriages but have said they would not support banning them byconstitutional amendment.

A spokesman for Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother, reaffirmed the governor's belief Wednesday ``in the sanctity of marriage.''

``The governor believes marriage should be between a man and a woman,'' spokesman Jacob DiPietre said. ``We've had a law on the books in Florida since 1977 banning gay marriage and thegovernor took an oath of office to uphold the laws of the state.''

Some Florida cities and counties, including Broward, recognize certain aspects of commitments existing outside the parameters of traditional marriage between a man and a woman.

Those on Broward County's payrolls are eligible to have their same-sex partner covered by their work-provided health insurance, plus receive other benefits typically extended to spouses ofthe opposite sex.