Groups Defend Florida's Same-Sex Marriage Ban

A coalition of black and Hispanic civil rights groups and pastors is challenging the grounds of a lawsuit that seeks to overturn Florida's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

The groups said Friday that the lawsuit threatens to violate the rights of the Florida voters who approved the ban by a wide margin in November 2008.

The ban, which defines marriage as "the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife" and states that no other unions can be recognized, passed with 62 percent of the vote.

"The lawsuit directly infringes on Florida voters' rights to amend their state constitution and their access to the political process," said the coalition's attorney, Alexander Alfano.

The groups, including the Christian Family Coalition, Florida Democratic League and PULSE, filed court papers Feb. 25 saying a judge should dismiss the lawsuit. They also have launched an online petition to gather support for their efforts,

In January, six gay couples sued in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court, saying Florida's ban violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process. Their supporters say attitudes toward gay marriage have changed in Florida and elsewhere, and the lawsuit is one of many similar cases pending nationwide.

An attorney for the couples did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

A separate lawsuit filed earlier this month in federal court argues that Florida discriminates against gay couples by not recognizing same-sex marriages performed in state where those unions are legal.

The office of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is defending the state in the federal lawsuit. A spokeswoman said Bondi's office is monitoring the case in Miami-Dade County.

Judges have struck down gay marriage bans as discriminatory in other states, and the U.S. Supreme Court last year issued a decision invalidating the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

In 2010, gays in Florida won a key legal victory when the state declined to appeal a decision striking down a decades-old ban on adoptions by gay couples.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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