GAY MARRIAGE CHALLENGE - Mitch Perry

01/25/05

Three gay couples dropped their lawsuits today challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act, saying they don't want to risk having a conservative U.S. Supreme Court set legal precedent by rejecting their cases.

Attorney Ellis Rubin, who was representing the couples, and the American Civil Liberties Union had said they would take the cases all the way from Florida's federal courts to the Supreme Court. The suits were brought by gay couples married in Massachusetts and Canada who wanted Florida to recognize their marriages.

Florida law only recognizes marriages between a man and a woman, a law that is supported by the Defense of Marriage Act. It allows states to disregard gay marriages performed in other states and foreign countries.

Rubin said in a statement the decision was made along with the ACLU's Gay and Lesbian Rights Project. Key in the decision was the Supreme Court's recent refusal to hear a challenge to the Florida law that bans gays from adopting children.

Two of the lawsuits were dismissed by a federal judge in Tampa last week. The third case, filed in Miami, had not been heard. If the dismissals had been appealed, the conservative 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta would have heard the case. Its ruling could have been appealed to the Supreme Court.

Robin Tyler, executive director of the Equality Campaign, the gay rights group that helped bring the lawsuits, said she doesn't consider the decision to drop the suits a setback for her cause. She said once the Supreme Court opted NOT to hear the case about gay couples being forbidden to adopt, their strategy changed (roll tape#1 o.q.�in the cultural war�)

Tyler said her group's attention will now be focused on changing individual state laws to allow marriage between same-sex couples and other legal challenges in less conservative districts. The group is also battling efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriages.."(roll tape#2 o.q.�on the next decade�)

The Rev. Nancy Wilson, one of the participants in the lawsuits, said she agreed with the decision. She was seeking to have her Massachusetts marriage to Paula Shoenwether recognized by Florida.Wilson, a minister in the Metropolitan Community Church, a nationwide church for gay Christians, said she will continue to fight Florida's gay marriage ban in other ways.

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