Updated Jan. 20, 2005
TAMPA, Fla. (BP)–In the first ruling of its kind a federal judge upheld the Defense of Marriage Act Jan. 19, dismissing a case brought by a lesbian couple that had sought to have their Massachusetts marriage license recognized in Florida.
The lawsuit was filed last July on behalf of Nancy Wilson and Paula Schoenwether, a lesbian couple from Florida that had “married” in Massachusetts. The couple asked the court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 federal law that gives states the option of not recognizing another state’s same-sex “marriage.” Florida has a law banning “gay marriage.”
But U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. agreed with Attorney General John Ashcroft’s motion to dismiss the case and ruled that DOMA does not violate the U.S. Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause, as the plaintiffs had argued. His ruling likely will be appealed.
“Adopting Plaintiffs’ rigid and literal interpretation of the Full Faith and Credit [Clause] would create a license for a single State to create national policy,” Moody wrote in his 18-page opinion.
“… The Supreme Court has clearly established that ‘the Full Faith and Credit Clause does not require a State to apply another State’s law in violation of its own legitimate public policy.’ Florida is not required to recognize or apply Massachusetts’ same-sex marriage law because it clearly conflicts with Florida’s legitimate public policy of opposing same-sex marriage.”
The Defense of Marriage Act has been at the center of the national same-sex “marriage” debate. If overturned, then all 50 states presumably would be forced to recognize “gay marriage.”
In August the Defense of Marriage Act was upheld by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Washington state. But that case involved a couple who had been issued a Canadian marriage license. The case in Florida was the first to involve a couple legally “married” in the U.S. seeking to have DOMA ruled unconstitutional.
Mat Staver, president of the pro-family group Liberty Counsel, applauded the ruling.
“It is a soundly written decision that is not only legally well-based but is common sense,” Staver told Baptist Press. “This court ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional and that it promotes a legitimate state purpose of preserving marriage for purposes of procreation and stability for children.
“… All across the board, on every conceivable legal argument, this court issued a sound decision — a correct decision — and one that I think will be and should be followed by the other courts in Florida, where this issue is pending.”
There are seven cases in Florida seeking to legalize same-sex “marriage,” Staver said. Including the one dismissed, two of them are seeking to have DOMA overturned.
Conservatives and pro-family groups fear that a federal court will strike down the Defense of Marriage Act by ruling it violates the Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause, which states that “full faith and credit” must be given in each state to the “public acts, records, and judicial proceedings” of every other state.
“Congress’ actions in adopting DOMA are exactly what the Framers envisioned when they created the Full Faith and Credit Clause,” Moody wrote. “… Congress’ actions are an appropriate exercise of its power to regulate conflicts between the laws of two different States, in this case, conflicts over the validity of same-sex marriages.”
Wilson said she is prepared to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. She serves as pastor of Trinity Metropolitan Community Church in Sarasota, Fla. — a church that celebrates homosexuality.
“Despite this ruling, we are still married in our hearts, and legally married in Massachusetts,” she said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.
Moody pointed to Baker v. Nelson, a 1972 case in which a Minnesota homosexual couple sued for the right to “marry.” The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled against the two men, and the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed an appeal “for want of a substantial federal question.”
“Although Baker v. Nelson is over thirty (30) years old, the decision addressed the same issues presented in this action and this Court is bound to follow the Supreme Court’s decision,” Moody wrote. “… The Supreme Court has not explicitly or implicitly overturned its holding in Baker or provided the lower courts, including this Court, with any reason to believe that the holding is invalid today.”
Moody rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that Lawrence v. Texas — the Supreme Court ruling that overturned anti-sodomy laws — should lead to same-sex “marriage” legalization.
“[T]he Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence cannot be interpreted as creating a fundamental right to same-sex marriage,” Moody wrote.
Staver, who has been involved in the legal battle over same-sex “marriage” coast to coast, said a marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution is still needed — despite the good news in Florida for pro-family groups.
“We must not rely upon the courts and we should not have to scour the Internet hour by hour to determine whether marriage is continuing to be preserved,” he said. “We need to have stability for the most fundamental human relationship known to us, and that is marriage. The only way to do that is by the passage of a federal marriage amendment.
“Some judge somewhere sometime will rule in favor of same-sex marriage. It’s just a matter of time and finding the right judge.”
The case is Wilson v. Ake.
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage