Same-Sex Marriage Suit Filed In Florida

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.”

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5 Responses to Same-Sex Marriage Suit Filed In Florida

  1. vyronise says:

    same sex marriages should be approved. WE as the public need to stay out of their business, just as we do not get involved with heterosexual marriages. Whether we approve or not homosexuals will always exist and we should be happy that two people are willing to commit to each other rather than add to the infidelity. Gays are just as capable of providing a stable life style as the next. There are endless benefits to the heterosexual voters republican and democrats. It will not add to teenage pregnancy, high population, nor single-parenting.

  2. P says:

    So what if people who wish to commit to each other are the same freaking sex? I commited MY LIFE & MY CAREER to a straight guy (I am a female), ONLY to have the rug pulled out from under me 3 MONTHS SHY of lifelong alimony (apparently, housewives aren’t too attractive after 14 years, but co-workers are). Had I married a woman instead, she would at LEAST appreciate my circumstances….as opposed to some selfish SHIT of a man (whom I had 4 kids by) whom sat on his ass after work & drinking beer insisting that I “cut his meat for him” for respect, since I didn’t work. (The caveat here being that he WOULD not let me work because it would “push us into a higher tax bracket” Good Lord.) Lets face it, women STILL need protection against poverty (which I’m currently living in due to my ex-asshole), so what better than for us (women) to team up & gain the same benefits as married couples, whether we have “sex” (come on people, grow up…like that is what we’re on this planet for…get off the PORN SITES, MEN), or not!. My belief is that if 2 people want to help each other through life, they should be allowed to, regardless of sex, and should ENJOY the same benefits. From a woman’s point of view, I must say, sex does NOT matter in as far as co-habiting couples. What makes makes male-female so special? I can tell you right now from personal experience…if you’re a female housewife of over 14 years, and your alcoholic, abusive asshole husband rapes you, and tries to break into your bedroom AFTER you are separated, well,..gee….since his name is on the deed, guess WHAT? There is “nothing they can do” (According to Clay County Sherrfi’s Dept..Florida).

    Try THAT on for size! I for one would feel more comfortable with a same sex “partner” going forward through life after seeing what “men” are capable (or rather not) of.

    Color me, CONVERTED.

  3. Mike Daley says:

    Homosexuality is wrong. It is against nature. Two men cannot produce a baby. Two women cannot produce a baby. It’s unnatural. If same sex marriages are granted legal standing, it will lead to greater bizarre acts. The media is conditioning us to accept homosexuality. The media is convincing the public that anyone who speaks out against same sex marriages is judgmental. I say if the homos can speak out in favor of same sex marriages then I should be able to speak out against it. If they believe heterosexuality is wrong and can speak in public in favor of homosexuality, then why can’t say homosexuality is wrong without being accused of a hate crime or serving judgement?

    And why would Ellis Rubin, the attorney, take on these cases pro bono? There are so many broken lives of people falsely accused of crimes and in many cases convicted when they are innocent?
    Where is the justification? Are the rights of homosexuals greater than the poor and the damned in criminal cases? The majority of poor people cannot afford a criminal defense attorney and have to rely on public defenders who sleep in the same bed with the prosecutors.

    The United States has far greater problems that the public should be in court over, such as the Patriot Act. But no one seems to care. Instead the media has fed and watered us to the point where we are so scared of each other that we believe the world is going to end anyday. We are ruled by fear and intimidation brought about from the helms of the giant media conglomerates. And the same sex marriage issue is being shoved down our throats the same way.

  4. fibo says:

    Mike, I actually agree with everything you say after the first paragraph. And if the homosexual lobby was trying to ban opposite sex marriages, you might have a point in the first one, too.

  5. Jean says:

    Bizarre acts? How would legal standing for homosexual marriages lead to “greater bizarre acts”?
    If two people are willing to take a vow to care for each other, why should we deny them the legal benefits normally accorded such a commitment? From purely a social and practical standpoint, it makes far more sense to encourage, rather than sanction, such commitments.

    I have recently heard that the purpose of legal marriage is to encourage procreation — ‘family’. Wow. If true, then my husband (Greg) and I should never have been allowed to marry. Greg and I recently celebrated our eleventh anniversary. We have seen each other through good times and bad, yet we have had no children together. We do, however, have one daughter (from my previous marriage) and now a grandson. Should we not have married because he did not sire a child? Of course, this is patently absurd. Now…..would it be any different to “society” if Greg were Georgette? No.

    Generally courts, and we as a society, recognize the folly of favoring short term ‘gains’ at the expense of long term stability and fairness. Attempts to deny benefits to one sex or the other in spousal relationships have failed, as have attempts to deny housing based on a narrow definition of ‘family’ (Justice Rehnquist notwithstanding).

    From purely an economic point of view, it makes sense to encourage stable relationships. From a perspective of simple fairness, it is wrong to discriminate against a whole class of persons.

    Society should encourage families caring for families. What difference is it what sex the ‘family’ is?

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