Florida Gays Jump Into Marriage Debate

Dozens of gay men and women sued a Florida court clerk Wednesday in a challenge to the state's law prohibiting same-sex marriages.

The lawsuit — apparently the first legal challenge to the law — names only Broward County Clerk Howard Forman (search), who issues wedding licenses for the county.

"An idea whose time has come can never be stopped," said Ellis Rubin (search), attorney for the 175 plaintiffs. "This idea's time is now."

The move comes a day after President Bush asked for a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriages (search). The president's request followed a decision by officials in San Francisco to allow gays and lesbians to wed, possibly in violation of California law.

Jacob DiPietre, a spokesman for Gov. Jeb Bush, said the president's brother stands behind the state law. Florida is among 38 states that prohibit same-sex unions.

"We've had a law on the books in Florida since 1977 banning gay marriage and the governor took an oath of office to uphold the laws of the state," he said.

Some Florida municipalities, including Broward County (search), recognize certain aspects of civil unions.

Gays and lesbians employed by Broward County are eligible to have their same-sex partners covered by work-provided health insurance and receive other benefits typically extended to spouses.

"We're people, human beings, American citizens," said James Stewart, a retired teacher from Dania Beach. "It's an old cliched line, but you know what? If we're going to pay our taxes, we deserve every right that should be granted to every American citizen."