On July 20, 2004, a lesbian couple living in Florida filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida against the U.S. Attorney General and Clerk for the Circuit and Country Courts of Hillsborough County, Florida, challenging the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Florida's implementation of the statute. Plaintiffs brought their lawsuit after a clerk in the Circuit Court's Office in Hillsborough Country refused to recognize their Massachusetts marriage license. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, asked the court to declare DOMA and the corresponding Florida statute unconstitutional and enjoin their enforcement. The plaintiffs alleged that the two statutes violate the Full Faith and Credit Clause, the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Privileges and Immunities Clause, and the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.
The plaintiffs asserted that Florida is required to recognize their valid Massachusetts marriage license because DOMA exceeds Congress' power under the Full Faith and Credit Clause. They also argued that twelve U.S. Supreme Court Cases, beginning with Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), and ending with Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), demonstrate a recent trend by the Supreme Court to expand the fundamental liberty of personal autonomy in connection with one's intimate affairs and family relations. The plaintiffs urged the Court in the case at bar to expand on these cases and find that the right to enter into a same-sex marriage is protected by the Constitution.
On September 27, 2004, the U.S. filed a Motion to Dismiss, arguing that DOMA does not infringe on any of the plaintiffs' fundamental rights and is a legitimate exercise of the power granted to Congress by the Full Faith and Credit Clause. On January 19, 2005, Judge James S. Moody, Jr., granted the defendant's Motion to Dismiss. The Court rejected the plaintiff's interpretation of the Full Faith and Credit Clause, saying that 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 marriage. 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 Court went on to say that it was bound the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Baker v. Nelson, 409 U.S. 810 (1972), who dismissed for want of a substantial federal question the appeal of Minnesota's Supreme Court ruling that the right to marry without regard to the sex of the parties is not a fundamental right of all persons (and thus a similar state statute to the one in the case at bar did not violate the Due Process Clause or Equal Protection Clause).
Regarding Due Process, the Court said the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence only determined that a Texas statute prohibiting homosexual sodomy failed under the rational basis analysis, and in no way can be interpreted as creating a fundamental right to same-sex marriage. The Court also expressed its reservations about elevating rights to fundamental status, since to do so would remove policy decisions from the hands of the people and into the guardianship of unelected judges. Willams v. Pryor, 378 F.3d 1232, 1250. Therefore, the Court found that the right to marry a person of the same sex is not a fundamental right under the Constitution.
On the issue of Equal Protection, the Court stated that the Eleventh Circuit has held that homosexuality is not a suspect class that would require subjecting DOMA to strict scrutiny, Lofton v. Sec. of Dept. of Children and Family Servs., 358 F.3d 804, 818 (11th Cir. 2004), and that DOMA does not discriminate on the basis of sex because it treats women and men equally, In re Kandu, 315 B.R. 123, 143 (W.D. Wash. 2004), and therefore it must apply rational basis review. The Court held that encouraging the raising of children in homes consisting of a married mother and father is a legitimate state interest, See Lofton, 358 F.3d at 819-20, and DOMA is rationally related to this interest.
On March 7, 2005, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the remainder of the case (involving the State of Florida) and the case was closed on March 8, 2005.Darren Miller - 10/05/2012
Claire Lally - 02/22/2015