Same-Sex FL Couple Seeks Recognition of MA Marriage

July 26, 2004 ( - Nancy Wilson and Paula Schoenwether are suing the state of Florida to have their Massachusetts marriage recognized, but one conservative business group says such a move would "profoundly affect" the interest of businesses, churches and citizens.

The two women filed suit last weekin the US District Court in Tampa. In their suit, Wilson and Schoenwether said the federal Defense of Marriage Act , which says states do not have to recognize one another’s same-sex unions, and a Florida law that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman, are in violation of the couple’s Constitutional right to equal protection under the law, according to a Washington Times report.

Wilson and Schoenwether , of Bradenton, Florida, were married in Provincetown, Massachusetts, on July 2. However, when the two women later sought a Florida marriage license they were rejected. The pair filed suit, naming as defendants US Attorney General John Ashcroft and county clerk Richard Ake , whose office declined to issue the couple a Florida marriage license.

In response to the couple’s lawsuit, the Liberty Counsel of Orlando, a Florida conservative group, sued to have the Florida marriage laws upheld. The Liberty Counsel said the interests of Florida businesses, churches and citizens “would be profoundly affected if same-sex marriage were to be recognized in Florida.”

Massachusetts has been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples since May 17 (See Massachusetts Court Says Gays Entitled to Marry). However, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office later handed down an edict telling all county clerks to “cease and desist” issuing licenses to nonresident same-sex couples who do not plan to relocate there citing a 1913 law forbids nonresident couples from marrying in Massachusetts if they cannot marry in their home states.