Antigay Groups Cannot Intervene in Marriage Equality Lawsuit, Judge Rules

A Circuit Court ruled that antigay groups Florida Family Action, Florida Democratic League, and People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality cannot intervene in the lawsuit filed by six same-sex couples who sued Florida and are asking a court to rule that Florida's ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit claims the ban denies same-sex couples legal protections and overall equality.

Four of the couples named in the suit have children, while another couple has an adult child and two grandchildren.

See also: Gay Florida Couples Sue State for Right to Marry

On Tuesday, Circuit Court Judge Sarah Zabel denied the groups' request to be parties in the case, ruling that they "will not be directly and immediately affected if others enter into a same-sex marriage, or are prevented from entering into a same-sex marriage."

Zabel says the groups want to be parties in the lawsuit based only on their beliefs about gay marriage. Her order says that the "validity of their own marriages will not be affected."

A news release issued by Equality Florida Institute CEO Nadine Smith calls the lawsuit a protection of constitutional rights. It also terms the groups' attempt to intervene nothing but rhetoric.

"Judge Zabel reached the proper conclusion in denying extremists seeking a platform for their anti-gay rhetoric the right to intervene in this case," said Smith. "This lawsuit is about fundamental, constitutionally protected rights that are violated by a measure that does real harm to our families. We look forward to the day when Florida joins the 19 other states and the District of Columbia, where judges have come to the conclusion that such a ban is indefensible."

Florida Family Action, Florida Democratic League, and People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality have all openly opposed gay marriage.

The six same-sex couples' motion, which was filed on May 1, asserts the marriage ban cannot stand in light of last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the federal "Defense of Marriage Act" violates the federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.

A ban on same-sex marriage was voted into the state constitution in 2008.

The lawsuit itself was filed back in January.

Zabel will preside over the hearing in Miami on July 2 and will hear from the couples' attorneys as well as the Equality Florida Institute.

A copy of Zabel's order from Tuesday is below:

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph