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Federal marriage law to face test

The first suit against the constitutionality of the 1995 federal Defense of Marriage Act treads where gay organization lawyers so far haven't.

By Associated Press
Published May 11, 2004

MIAMI - Four Florida gay and lesbian couples say they will be the first to contest an 8-year-old federal law banning same-sex marriage.

Although gay rights groups have limited their legal challenges to state courts, attorney Ellis Rubin says he plans to file a federal lawsuit Wednesday challenging the constitutionality of the 1995 federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Rubin was denied marriage licenses for the four couples at the Miami-Dade County clerk's office.

"I don't believe in sitting back and letting a steamroller roll over me," Rubin said Monday.

Rubin filed a challenge to an equivalent Florida law in state court in February, and a second lawsuit against the state law was filed last month. But the new lawsuit may not be welcomed by its intended beneficiaries.

David Buckel, director of the marriage project with the gay rights group Lambda Legal, said he couldn't say whether he supported the new lawsuit without seeing it but had reservations.

"Thoughtful lawyers all around the country have been holding back from" a federal challenge, said Buckel, whose group is challenging state marriage laws in California, New Jersey, New York and Washington. "In any civil rights movement you've got to pick the right time and the right place because what you want to do is win."

Rubin thinks the federal lawsuit could force the U.S. Supreme Court to address the question of gay marriage as much as two years before lawsuits working their way through state courts.

The suit contends the federal law is a discriminatory violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution and violates the full faith and credit clause by allowing states to refuse to recognize gay marriages from other states.

[Last modified May 11, 2004, 01:49:18]


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