June 7, 2007 Publishing Good News since 1884 Volume 124 Number 21

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Lesbian couple 'married' in Mass. challenges Florida law


TAMPA (BP)--In an historic lawsuit, a same-sex couple "married" in Massachusetts filed a legal challenge July 20 against the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

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If successful, the lawsuit could result in all 50 states recognizing same-sex "marriage."

Florida attorney Ellis Rubin filed the lawsuit in a Tampa, Fla., federal court on behalf of Nancy Wilson and Paula Schoenwether, a lesbian couple who received a marriage license in Massachusetts July 2 and are suing to have it recognized in Florida, a spokesperson for Rubin told Baptist Press. Wilson is pastor of Trinity Metropolitan Community Church -- a church that affirms homosexuality -- in Sarasota, Fla.

The lawsuit is the first against the Defense of Marriage Act on behalf of a same-sex couple who have a state-recognized marriage license. Legal experts say the license strengthens the couple's case.

A friend of the couple, Robin Tyler of Dontamend.com, said the lawsuit is necessary. Dontamend.com, which first announced the lawsuit, is a campaign seeking to prevent the passage of a constitutional marriage amendment.

"We do not have equal protection under the law, and we will continue to sue across this country, until the Supreme Court of the United States finally grants us full marriage equality," Tyler said in the statement.

Although Rubin has filed lawsuits recently seeking the legalization of same-sex "marriage" in Florida, this is the first one where his clients have a valid marriage license.

The nation's major homosexual rights organizations -- such as Lambda Legal -- have yet to file suit against DOMA in federal court, perhaps because they believe the political timing isn't right.

Signed into law in 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act is the federal law that gives states the option of not recognizing another state's same-sex "marriages." The law also prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex "marriage." If it is overturned, then every state presumably would be forced to recognize Massachusetts' same-sex "marriages."

The controversy over the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act is at the heart of the debate over the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Opponents of the amendment argue that DOMA has yet to be challenged successfully in court and that the push for a constitutional amendment is premature.

Supporters of the amendment counter by pointing to the numerous lawsuits nationwide and say is it only a matter of time before the Defense of Marriage Act is overturned. On the state level, at least eight states are defending their marriage laws in court against those seeking to legalize same-sex "marriage."

"The question is no longer whether the Constitution will be amended," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R.-Tenn., said during floor debate on the marriage amendment July 14. "The only question is who will amend it and how it will be amended. Will activist judges -- not elected by the American people -- destroy the institution of marriage? Or will the people protect marriage as the best way to raise children? My vote is with the people."

Constitutional amendments require the passage of two-thirds of both the House and Senate and three-quarters (38) of the states.

For more information about the national debate over same-sex "marriage," visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage.

(Florida Baptist Witness contributed to this report)