Judge: Conservative coalition can’t legally defend gay marriage law

Miami Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel.
Miami Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel.
Tim Chapman / Miami Herald File

A Miami-Dade circuit judge Tuesday told three conservative groups they could not legally co-defend Florida’s gay marriage ban in court.

Accusing Miami-Dade County Clerk Harvey Ruvin of not “vigorously” defending Florida’s gay marriage ban, the conservatives last month asked Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel to allow them to be co-defendants in the case brought by six same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses.

“Harvey’s attorneys are not making him look very good,” said Eladio Jose Armesto, chairman of the Florida Democratic League, after the May 14 hearing. “It would be a grave mistake on Harvey’s part not to vigorously defend the Florida Constitution in which he took an oath to uphold, as well as to defend the rights of Florida voters.”

Florida Democratic League, Florida Family Action and People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality (PULSE) asked Zabel to let them join the case. Tuesday, she said no.

Zabel ruled the groups had no more at stake than “millions of other Floridians” and no “personal stake” in the constitutionality of Florida’s gay marriage ban, which passed in 2008 with nearly 62 percent of the vote.

“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 wrote.

“Allowing or disallowing the Plaintiffs to marry would simply not affect anyone’s right to state their opinions about their marriages, or same-sex marriages in general, and would not interfere with anyone’s religion, business or nonprofit organization,” Zabel also wrote.

Armesto declined to comment Tuesday, saying he had not seen Zabel’s ruling.

“Today 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 Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida Institute, a plaintiff in the case along with couples Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello of Coconut Grove; Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price of Davie; Vanessa and Melanie Alenier of Hollywood; Todd and Jeff Delmay of Hollywood; Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber of Plantation; and Don Price Johnston and Jorge Isaias Diaz of Miami.

“This lawsuit is about fundamental, constitutionally protected rights that are violated by a measure that does real harm to our families,” Smith said in a news release. “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.”

Zabel did rule, however, that the conservative groups could file a motion to become a friend of the court and present an oral argument why the marriage ban should be upheld.

“No one can say that their voices aren’t heard,” said Miami Beach attorney Elizabeth Schwartz, who is co-representing the plaintiffs.

A hearing will be held July 2 on a plaintiff’s motion that Zabel rule immediately in their favor, without a trial.

Read more Miami-Dade stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category