WILSON v. AKE No. 8:04-CV-1680-T-30TBM.
354 F.Supp.2d 1298 (2005)
Rev. Nancy WILSON and Dr. Paula Schoenwether, Plaintiffs, v. Richard L. AKE and John Ashcroft, Defendants.
United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division.
January 19, 2005.
Erik W. Stanley, Liberty Counsel, Longwood, FL, for Cody Taylor, Intervenor Defendant.
MOODY, District Judge.
THIS CAUSE comes before the Court upon United States Attorney General John Ashcroft's Motion to Dismiss (Dkt.#31), Memorandum in Support of United States Attorney General Ashcroft's Motion to Dismiss (Dkt.# 39), and Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Law in Opposition to the United States Attorney General's Motion to Dismiss (Dkt.#48). The Court, having considered the Motion and Memoranda, and being otherwise fully advised, finds that the Motion should be granted.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Plaintiffs Nancy Wilson and Paula Schoenwether allege that they are a lesbian couple who reside together in the Middle District of Florida. According to the Complaint, Plaintiffs were legally married in the State of Massachusetts and possess a valid marriage license from that State. Plaintiffs allege that they personally presented their Massachusetts marriage license to a Deputy Clerk at the Clerk of the Circuit Court's Office in Hillsborough County, Florida, asking for "acceptance of the valid and legal Massachusetts marriage license." (Complaint, ¶ 12). Plaintiffs allege that "[t]heir demand was refused by Defendant Ake, whose Deputy Clerk stated that according to Federal and Florida law, the Clerk is not allowed to recognize, for marriage purposes, the Massachusetts marriage license, because Federal and Florida law prohibit such recognition." (Complaint, ¶ 12).
Plaintiffs have filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment asking this Court to declare the Federal Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA"), 1 U.S.C. § 7; 28 U.S.C. § 1738C,
Plaintiffs allege that the two statutes violate the Full Faith and Credit Clause, the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Privileges and Immunities Clause, and the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.
Plaintiffs assert that Florida is required to recognize Plaintiffs' valid Massachusetts marriage license because DOMA exceeds Congress' power under the Full Faith and Credit Clause. Plaintiffs also argue that twelve United States Supreme Court cases (which Plaintiffs label "The Dynamite Dozen"), beginning with Brown v. Board of Education,
Defendant Ashcroft has moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Fed.R.Civ.P, on the grounds that the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
MOTION TO DISMISS STANDARD
A complaint should not be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim." Bracewell v. Nicholson Air Services, Inc.,
FULL FAITH AND CREDIT CLAUSE
Plaintiffs' Complaint asserts that DOMA conflicts with the Constitution's Full Faith and Credit Clause. Article IV, Section I of the Constitution provides:
Plaintiffs argue that "[o]nce Massachusetts sanctioned legal same-gender marriage, all other states should be constitutionally required to uphold the validity of the marriage." (Complaint, ¶ 23). Plaintiffs believe that the differences in individuals' rights to enter into same-sex marriages among the States, such as Florida and Massachusetts, is exactly what the Full Faith and Credit Clause prohibits. They also assert that DOMA is beyond the scope of Congress' legislative power under the Full Faith and Credit Clause because Congress may only regulate what effect a law may have, it may not dictate that the law has no effect at all.
This Court disagrees with Plaintiffs interpretation of the Full Faith and Credit Clause. Congress' actions in adopting DOMA are exactly what the Framers envisioned when they created the Full Faith and Credit Clause. DOMA is an example of Congress exercising its powers under the Full Faith and Credit Clause to determine the effect that "any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage" has on the other States. 28 U.S.C. § 1738C. 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.
Adopting Plaintiffs' rigid and literal interpretation of the Full Faith and Credit would create a license for a single State to create national policy. See Nevada v. Hall,
BAKER v. NELSON
The United States argues that this Court is bound by the United States Supreme Court's decision in Baker v. Nelson, 291 Minn. 310,
The plaintiffs then appealed the Minnesota Supreme Court's ruling to the United States Supreme Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1257(2).
Plaintiffs assert that Baker v. Nelson is not binding upon this Court because the Supreme Court did not issue a written opinion and because the case was decided thirty-two (32) years ago, before the "current civil rights revolution." (Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Law in Opposition (Dkt.#48), pp. 9-10). This Court disagrees. A dismissal for lack of a substantial federal question constitutes an adjudication on the merits that is binding on lower federal courts. See Hicks, 422 U.S. at 344, 95 S.Ct. 2281. As Justice White noted, the Court was "not obligated to grant the case plenary consideration ... but [the Court was] required to deal with its merits." Id; see also Ohio ex rel. Eaton v. Price,
Although Baker v. Nelson is over thirty (30) years old, the decision addressed the
The Supreme Court's holding in Lawrence does not alter the dispositive effect of Baker. See Agostini v. Felton,
Recent Eleventh Circuit precedent also constrains this Court to rule contrary to Plaintiffs' position. Plaintiffs argue that their right to marry someone of the same sex is a fundamental right that is guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause.
The Supreme Court has defined fundamental rights as those liberties that are "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty, such that neither liberty nor justice would exist if they were sacrificed." Glucksberg, 521 U.S. at 721, 117 S.Ct. 2302 (quoting Palko v. Connecticut,
Although the Supreme Court has held that marriage is a fundamental right, Glucksberg, 521 U.S. at 720, 117 S.Ct. 2258, no federal court has recognized that this right includes the right to marry a person of the same sex. See Kandu, 315 B.R. at 139; Standhardt v. Superior Court of State,
In Lawrence, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas statute that criminalized private sexual conduct between consenting adults of the same sex. 539 U.S. at 578-79, 123 S.Ct. 2472. The Court found that the statute could not stand under rational review because it did not further a legitimate state interest that justified the intrusion into the personal lives of homosexuals. Id.
But the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence cannot be interpreted as creating a fundamental right to same-sex marriage. First, the Eleventh Circuit disagrees with Plaintiffs' assertion that Lawrence created a fundamental right in private sexual intimacy and this Court must follow the holdings of the Eleventh Circuit. See Lofton v. Sec. of Dept. of Children and Family Services,
Second, the majority in Lawrence was explicitly clear that its holding did not extend to the issue of same-sex marriage, stating that the case "does not involve whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter." Lawrence 539 U.S. at 578, 123 S.Ct. 2472; see also Standhardt, 206 Ariz, at 282, 77 P.3d at 457 ("If the Court did not view such an intimate expression of the bond securing a homosexual relationship to be a fundamental right, we must reject any notion that the Court intended to confer such status on the right to secure state-sanctioned recognition of such a union."). It is disingenuous to argue that the Supreme Court's precise language in Lawrence established a fundamental right to enter into a same-sex marriage.
Moreover, this Court is not inclined to elevate the ability to marry someone of the same sex to a fundamental right. Although the Court recognizes the importance of a heterosexual or homosexual
The Eleventh Circuit has also noted that once a right is elevated to a fundamental right, it is "effectively removed from the hands of the people and placed into the guardianship of unelected judges. We are particularly mindful of this fact in the delicate area of morals legislation." Williams, 378 F.3d at 1250 (internal citations omitted). "Of course, the Court may in due course expand Lawrence's precedent... [b]ut for us preemptively to take that step would exceed our mandate as a lower court." Williams, 378 F.3d at 1238; see also Lofton, 358 F.3d at 827 (the "legislature is the proper forum for this debate, and we do not sit as a superlegislature `to award by judicial decree what was not achievable by political consensus.'") (quoting Thomasson v. Perry,
Plaintiffs also argue that this Court should apply strict scrutiny in determining the constitutionality of DOMA because it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
RATIONAL BASIS REVIEW
As the Court noted above, because Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to enter into a same-sex marriage and because DOMA does not create a suspect classification, the constitutionality of DOMA is reviewed under the rational basis test. Under rational basis review, this Court must determine whether the challenged legislation is rationally related to a legitimate state interest. See Lofton, 358 P.3d at 818 (citing Heller v. Doe,
The burden is on the Plaintiffs to negate "every conceivable basis which might support [the legislation], whether or not the basis has a foundation in the record." Id. at 818, (quoting Heller 509 U.S. at 320-21). The United States has "no obligation to produce evidence to sustain the rationality of a statutory classification." Id. (quoting Heller, 509 U.S. at 320, 113 S.Ct. 2637). "A statutory classification fails rational-basis review only when it `rests on grounds wholly irrelevant to the achievement of the State's objective.'" Heller, 509 U.S. at 324, 113 S.Ct. 2637 (quoting Holt Civic Club v. City of Tuscaloosa,
The United States asserts that DOMA is rationally related to two legitimate governmental interests. First, the government argues that DOMA fosters the development of relationships that are optimal for procreation, thereby encouraging the "stable generational continuity of the United States." (Memorandum in Support of Motion to Dismiss (Dkt.# 39), pp. 15-16). DOMA allegedly furthers this interest by permitting the states to deny recognition to same-sex marriages performed elsewhere and by adopting the traditional definition of marriage for purposes of federal statutes. Second, DOMA "encourage[s] the creation of stable relationships that facilitate the rearing of children by both of their biological parents." (Memorandum in Support of Motion to Dismiss (Dkt.#39), pp. 15-16). The government argues that these stable relationships encourage the creation of stable families that are well suited to nurturing and raising children.
Plaintiffs offer little to rebut the government's argument that DOMA is rationally related to the government's proffered legitimate interests. Rather, Plaintiffs repeatedly urge the Court to apply the more rigid strict scrutiny analysis.
In short, Plaintiffs' argument is that, given their recent "civil rights revolution," the United States Supreme Court is likely to declare that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right that is protected by the Constitution. Plaintiffs are asking this Court to create such a fundamental right immediately, before the Supreme Court revisits the issue of same-sex marriage. But that is not this Court's role. This Court is bound to follow the precedent established by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court. None of their precedent acknowledge or establish a constitutional right to enter into a same-sex marriage. The legislatures of the individual states may decide to permit same-sex marriage or the Supreme Court may decide to overturn its precedent and strike down DOMA. But, until then, this Court is constrained to hold DOMA and Florida Statutes § 741.212 constitutionally valid.
It is therefore ORDERED AND AJUDGED that:
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