I'd be happy to see a well-crafted lawsuit with the right sort of photogenic plaintiffs that might help find a right to same-sex marriage in the Florida Constitution. I've got some doubts, however, whether the suit filed earlier today by lead plaintiffs wearing T-shirts advertising their business is the one to do it. Especially as it appears that many of the supposed plaintiffs may not be aware that they are part of the case.
Pair files suit, challenging Florida ban on gay marriage — Gay couple James Stewart, 61 and Wayne Clark, 54, of Dania Beach, filed suit Wednesday in Broward County against the state of Florida for not recognizing their application to get married to each other.
“We are human beings, American citizens with the same rights as anyone,” said Stewart, facing a phalanx of television news cameras. “We pay our taxes and we're here to say to the Bush administration [who is proposing a constitutional ban on gay marriage], you can't decide who we can marry.”
The couple, who have been together for 10 years and wore matching black T-shirts advertising their piano bar act, hired attorney Ellis Rubin Tuesday afternoon. Their suit follows by one day an announcement by President Bush that he advocates a constitutional ban on gay marriage.
Stewart and Clark went to three Broward bars Tuesday night and collected 175 signatures of patrons who support the suit.
Presumably some of those people were unaware that they had signed their names to a lawsuit, Rubin conceded. He said he would remove anyone's name who asked.
They went to bars and asked people to sign in support??? They didn't screen the people to find out what their circumstances were? They outed them without even explaining to them what was going on? Rubin put their names in as plaintiffs — claiming to act as their lawyer — when the people were not even aware of his aim (or of the asserted attorney-client relationship)??? If that's true, it would seem a grave breach of basic professional ethics.
Wait a minute. Rubin. Ellis Rubin. That wouldn't be this Ellis Rubin, would it? The guy who tried (and failed) to sell a jury on the 'television intoxication defense'? And then years later tried the Internet intoxication defense? But that's also the same Ellis Rubin who went to jail rather than breach a rule of professional ethics.
Although none of the articles I can find address this issue, I assume this lawsuit is based on Art. I, sec. 2 of the Florida Constitution,
Basic rights.—All natural persons, female and male alike, are equal before the law and have inalienable rights, among which are the right to enjoy and defend life and liberty, to pursue happiness, to be rewarded for industry, and to acquire, possess and protect property; except that the ownership, inheritance, disposition and possession of real property by aliens ineligible for citizenship may be regulated or prohibited by law. No person shall be deprived of any right because of race, religion, national origin, or physical disability.
I don't know enough about the history of this clause to have a view as to how well it will sustain the claim, although I wouldn't have thought that Flordia as a whole was that fertile a grounds for civil rights of any sort (South Florida is not typical of the state). What concerns me is that the early reports about this lawsuit seem rather ominous, both for what they say about the ethics of the people running it, and the amount of preparation they've put into it. Which is a shame, as bad lawyering makes bad law easy. Difficult civil rights cases need the patient preparation that Thurgood Marshall brought to the NAACP, not grandstanding.
And there's more, which suggests to me that this isn't the sort of carefully crafted lawsuit with model plaintiffs that a smart lawyer would choose to mount what can only be an uphill attack.
Here's what the Miami Herald reported earlier
Rubin said he would file suit later this week on behalf of two men. Rubin identified only one of the two, who, Rubin acknowledged, has a checkered past.
William Patrick Ash, 39, has been arrested 11 times, including several charges of theft, check-kiting and serving beverages to minors, according to state records. Ash, who says he splits his time between Fort Lauderdale and San Diego, has at least two convictions, including a 1996 charge of living off the earnings of a prostitute.
In 1984, he lost his job as an aerobics instructor with the city of Fort Lauderdale. Officials said he falsified his résumé, in which he claimed he was a choreographer for Cats on Broadway, and that he started a fundraising project on behalf of the city without permission.
Ash, in a phone interview from San Diego, said he did not want his past to interfere with what he believed was a fairness issue. He claimed many of his problems stemmed from abuse by Catholic priests. He said he became part of the gay marriage fight because he wanted Americans to realize their lives would not change if gays married.
Rubin held up copies of the Florida and United States constitutions, reading portions about equal rights to allege that Florida's ban on gay marriage is unlawful. Rubin, who has a history of mixing the theatrical with politics and the law, said he would file suit at “high noon” on Wednesday.
In 1977, Rubin was a vocal gay-rights opponent. He filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn Miami-Dade County's first anti-discrimination ordinance for gay men and lesbians. Rubin publicly repudiated his prior stance two years ago.
There's also a recent AP article reporting this, but it takes the 170 number at face value.
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 male 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.”