Gay Florida Couples Suing the State Will Be Heard in Court Today

The six same-sex couples who sued the state back in January and are asking a state court to rule that Florida's ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional will finally be heard today in a Miami courtroom.

Eleventh Judicial Court Judge Sarah Zabel will preside over the case of Pareto v. Ruvin in a hearing scheduled for 4 Wednesday afternoon.

The suit looks to overturn Florida's ban on same-sex marriage, which was added to the state constitution in 2008. According to Equality Florida, the six couples' motion asserts that Florida's 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.

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

Meanwhile, proponents of the ban on same-sex marriage, such as Florida Family Policy Council's John Stemberger and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, remain outspoken against overturning the ban.

Stemberger, founder of Trail Live USA, the antigay alternative to the Boy Scouts, is expected to speak before Judge Zabel on Wednesday on behalf of keeping the ban on same-sex marriage in the state constitution. He was also key in getting the ban into the constitution in the first place.

Stemberger has called the fight for same-sex rights "a political movement that is an in-your-face, intolerant, attitude agenda."

Meanwhile, Bondi recently said that overturning the ban on same-sex marriage would "impose significant public harm."

Arguing against the lawsuit, she wrote, "Disrupting Florida's existing marriage laws would impose significant public harm."

She added, "Florida's marriage laws have a close, direct and rational relationship to society's legitimate interest in increasing the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by the mothers and fathers who produced them in stable and enduring family units. The definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman predates the founding of this Nation. There can be no doubt that the Founders assumed there was but one definition of marriage when the First Amendment was ratified."

Meanwhile, the plaintiffs in the case say they are only seeking the legal protections and overall equality that nongay married couples have.

One of the couples, Don Price Johnston and Jorge Isaias Diaz, recently got engaged after dating for a year.

"Both Don and I have very strong ties to Florida and cannot imagine getting married anywhere else," said Diaz, via Equality Florida. "If we could marry, we would be legally recognized as a family and have all the same legal protections as others."

"Florida is our home; it is where we are raising our child and where we want to get married," said plaintiff Catherina Pareto, who is fighting to marry her partner of 14 years, Karla Arguello. "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."

The plaintiffs in this case are: Equality Florida Institute; Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello; Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price; Vanessa and Melanie Alenier; Todd and Jeff Delmay; Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber; and Don Price Johnston and Jorge Isaias Diaz. They are represented by the law firm Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, Elizabeth F. Schwartz, Mary B. Meeks and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Sylvia Walbolt of Carlton Fields Jorden Burt will argue on plaintiffs' behalf.

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