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Gay marriage case assigned to Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel, a veteran family law specialist

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

A lawsuit by six couples demanding they be allowed to marry their same-sex partners in the state of Florida has been assigned to Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel.

Zabel, who as a litigator specialized in family law, is married to former North Miami Beach Mayor Myron Rosner. She has been a circuit judge since 2003.

“We have great confidence in the state court system that we’ll get a fair hearing,” said Miami Beach attorney Elizabeth Schwartz, one of the lawyers representing the six 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. Equality Florida Institute is also a plaintiff.

According to a 21-page filing on Tuesday, which names Miami-Dade County Clerk Harvey Ruvin as defendant, the plaintiffs “allege that Florida’s categorical exclusion of all same-sex couples from marriage deny same-sex couples, including the plaintiff couples, and their families the fundamental rights, dignity, and equality guaranteed to all persons by the United States Constitution.”

Last Friday, the couples applied for marriage licenses at the Miami-Dade County Clerk’s office and were turned down.

“The clerk was very sweet about it. She placed a call to make sure, saying, ‘Did something change because I don’t think we can do this,” Schwartz said. “I said, ‘Thank you for being diligent. It hasn’t yet, but hopefully this will be the first step in making that change happen.”

No court dates or hearings have been set.

Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida, the state’s leading gay-rights group, said she is confident Florida’s 2008 constitutional ban against gay marriage and civil unions will fall.

“Anyone who gives this issue a fair hearing and applies the law can only come to one conclusion: It's wrong to deny same-sex couples and our children the protections that only marriage can provide,” Smith said Wednesday.

Smith said that since Tuesday, “we’ve had hundreds of couples write  to tell their stories.

“You realize how much hope people have as this case moves through the court system,” she said.

Wrote one lesbian couple married in New York:

“We are currently snowbirds and love being here on the Gulf of Mexico. But as we approach retirement and consider living here full-time, the anti-same sex marriage policy, gives us pause. It is frightening to think that we would not be recognized as spouses in an emergency situation. The current ban marginalizes the life that we have built over so many years.”

Comments

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Last year, my husband and I testified at the Pinellas County Council in favoring of establishing a "Domestic Partner Registry". The motion passed, 6 to 1.

Now I think we'll join/support the lawsuit. Why pay $50 per couple to be treated semi-equally? We'll give that money to Equality Florida instead.

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