Updated: Florida Lawsuit Challenges Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Jan 21, 2014

Two of the suit's plaintiffs are Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello, who have been together 14 years and have a son together.
Credit Equality Florida

In Miami Tuesday, six same-sex couples filed a lawsuit challenging Florida’s constitutional ban on gay marriage. The suit by advocacy group Equality Florida joins dozens of similar cases pending across the U.S.—all with the goal of pushing nationwide marriage equality.

The six couples in the Florida case all showed up at a Miami-Dade courthouse last week to apply for marriage licenses. When all were denied, they filed suit against the county clerk of courts, claiming the refusal violates their 14th Amendment rights to due process and equal protection under the law.

The couples’ lawyer, Elizabeth Schwartz, spoke to Florida Public Radio after a press conference announcing the suit.

“There was a real palpable energy today," she said. "I think folks really feel like we’re on the cusp of something very good, very exciting. There was a lot of optimism in the room, I would say.”

The suit cites as precedent last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down a federal gay marriage ban.  It claims Florida law makes gay couples “second-class citizens.”

Schwartz says she expects the trial court’s ruling to be appealed and the case to advance to the Florida Supreme Court and possibly the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We think it’s time. And we think South Florida’s a great place for it. We’ve got very fair-minded folks down here who we think will see how absolutely critical it is to grant this most fundamental human right to not only these plaintiff couples but the many thousands that they represent," she said.

But the group that campaigned for the marriage ban in 2008, the Florida Family Policy Council, released a statement dismissing the suit as a publicity stunt. Council President John Stemberger also accused Equality Florida of venue shopping by bringing the suit in what he dubbed “the most liberal legal venue in the state.”