TAMPA -- A lesbian couple who married in Massachusetts sued the federal government yesterday to have their union legally recognized in the rest of the country.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Rev. Nancy Wilson and Paula Schoenwether, who married July 2 in Provincetown. The couple applied for a marriage license in Florida soon afterward and were denied. It was believed to be the first such lawsuit since gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts in May, said their attorney, Ellis Rubin.
''No one has anything to be afraid of by recognizing our marriage," Wilson said outside the courthouse yesterday.
Rubin said the federal Defense of Marriage Act and a Florida law that defines marriage as a union between a man and woman violate his clients' equal-protection rights. The lawsuit names US Attorney General John Ashcroft and county clerk Richard L. Ake, who declined to issue the couple a Florida marriage license.
Ashcroft spokesman Charles Miller declined comment, saying the office had not yet seen the lawsuit. Ake said he was following Florida law when he denied the couple a marriage license.