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Same-Sex Marriage Battle Resumes in Florida

January 20, 2014 - 6:00pm

The battle over same-sex marriage is returning to Florida as a new lawsuit was launched on Tuesday, drawing the fire from social and religious conservatives.

Same-sex marriage backers Equality Florida and six same-sex couples filed a lawsuit in Miami as they look to overturn Florida laws recognizing only traditional marriages in the Sunshine State. The plaintiffs, all of whom are from South Florida, argue that the current state laws violate the U.S. Constitution.

The couples are from Miami and the surrounding area. Catherina Pareto, who is in a same-sex relationship with Karla Arguello, explained her rationale behind the legal challenge.

Florida is our home, it is where we are raising our child, and where we want to get married, Pareto said. Karla and I wish for our family the same things that other families want. We want to build our lives together, provide a safe and caring home for our child, and share in the responsibilities and protections of marriage.

Nadine Smith, the CEO of the Equality Florida Institute, insisted there were large ramifications behind the lawsuit.

Today, the majority of Floridians stand with us as we take this historic step toward marriage equality in the Sunshine State, Smith said. These couples have been embraced by their families and communities, but every day Florida laws are denying them the protections and dignity that every family deserves. These harmful laws are outdated and out of step. It is time for all families in our state to have full equality under the law.

But conservatives quickly fired back on Tuesday. Conservative attorney John Stemberger, the president and general counsel of the Florida Family Policy Council, pointed toward a state constitutional amendment which voters in the Sunshine State approved back in 2008 at the ballot box.

"Sixty-two percent of Floridians have decisively spoken on this issue, Stemberger said on Tuesday. Gay activists cannot win in the marketplace, so they have resorted to trying to find renegade courts who have little respect for the rule of law to create social change that would never happen through the people or their elected representatives.

Today's lawsuit is nothing more than a publicity stunt, Stemberger added. Filed in Miami, it represents forum shopping in the most liberal legal venue in the state. However, we are confident that Florida's Attorney General Pam Bondi will provide a vigorous defense of Florida's long held law and in doing so will expose the radical views and overreaching legal positions set forth in today's lawsuit.

Stemberger pledged his group would be active in looking to ensure only traditional marriage is recognized in Florida but he did have kind words for the couples looking to change the law.

The six same-sex plaintiff couples in this lawsuit appear to be very sincere and are certainly free to self-define themselves and have private civil commitment ceremonies, Stemberger said. But they, and the activists who motivated them, are not free to redefine a fundamental human institution which has served civilization since the beginning of time.

In states where marriage has been redefined it has produced absurd results -- in the law, in education, in religious liberties and in what is best for children, families, and the common good of society, Stemberger added. When it comes to defining marriage, history will always be on the side of nature, biology, logic, and the collective wisdom of human history. We look forward to a robust debate on this issue as it makes it way through the courts."

Reach Kevin Derby at

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