By Zachary Fagenson
MIAMI (Reuters) – Lawyers representing a half dozen same-sex couples suing Miami-Dade County for the right to marry say Florida should follow the precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court in a decision last year that struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act.
“There have been an unbroken line of decisions since (then) that hold that prohibiting same-sex marriage is constitutionally impermissible,” said Jeffrey Michael Cohen, an attorney for the couples with the law firm Carlton Fields Jorden Burt.
A Miami-Dade circuit judge will hear oral arguments on Wednesday from a team of attorneys representing the couples and gay rights groups, Equality Florida Institute and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, seeking to strike down the state’s de facto ban on gay marriage and order it to recognize same-sex marriages.
Since the Supreme Court’s decision last year federal courts in Utah, Ohio, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia have all ruled in favor of same-sex couples’ right to marry.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi last week said she would defend the state’s constitutional ban as the issue heats up politically with an election on the horizon.
State Republican leaders find themselves at odds with a growing chorus of Democrats and local officials.
Former Florida governor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist reversed his position on same-sex marriage and filed a brief last week in support of the plaintiffs, arguing that “our society has evolved and moved past the prejudices rooted in our past.”
The cities of Miami Beach and Orlando also expressed their support in court filings.
The attorney general’s office in early June argued against the suit, citing the 2008 election when voters defined marriage between as solely man and a woman.
Bondi and Florida Governor Rick Scott, both Republicans, have downplayed their personal views on gay marriage, even as they appeal to conservatives eager to keep Florida’s marriage laws intact.
“The brief does not argue for or against same-sex marriage as a matter of policy, wisdom, or fairness,” Bondi said in a statement. “Those decisions are for the voters of each state.”
[Same-sex couple via Shutterstock]