Love v. Beshear - Intervention Denied

On April 22, a man named Chris Sevier filed a Motion to Intervene, pro se, in the Kentucky marriage equality case Love v. Beshear. Mr. Sevier was kind enough to send a warning to all counsel on the case the day before he filed, so this wasn't a total surprise to us.

I'm a little reluctant to discuss this motion because I don't really want to give Mr. Sevier the attention he so desperately desires, but because I'm co-counsel on the case and have documented much of the procedural progress so far, I feel somewhat obligated.

As you may recall, the attorneys for the plaintiffs in the already-active Bourke v. Beshear marriage recognition case (of whom I am a member) filed their own motion to intervene back in late February on behalf of two same sex couples who seek to marry in the state of Kentucky. Kentucky currently prohibits same sex marriage. That motion to intervene was granted, and the Love v. Beshear case was born.

Fast forward to this week, to Mr. Sevier's motion to intervene. He moved to intervene under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24, "on behalf of other minority sexual orientation groups, whose interest is not regarded by the existing Plaintiffs or Defendants."

That seems like a pretty big class of people, but if you look at Mr. Sevier's attached Intervening Complaint, he actually represents just one particular (and perhaps unique) "minority sexual orientation group:" those who want to marry inanimate objects.

Intervening Plaintiff has been living together with his computer as a couple for more than one year. The inanimate object that Plaintiff wants to marry is designed for sexual purposes and meant to cause arousal, since it is loaded with un-filted (sic) pornographic images.

I won't dignify the rest of his rambling, mostly incoherent filings by quoting them further. You can read them for yourself if you so choose. No existing counsel of record - for the Plaintiffs or for the Defendant, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear - filed a response or objection.

Yesterday, Senior Judge Thomas Russell of the Western District of Kentucky filed a Memorandum Order addressing this motion to intervene. First, he pointed out that "it is unclear whether Sevier seeks to intervene in the original action (Bourke) which is on appeal or in the continuing intervening complaint (Love)." Then, Russell ruled that since the Bourke case is on appeal, jurisdiction belongs to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and therefore any effort to intervene in that case would have to be filed there.

As for the ongoing Love case, Russell first points out that federal law "does not permit plaintiffs to appear pro se where interests other than their own are at stake." Since Sevier claimed to represent "the other sexual minority groups," he attempted to represent more than just himself (a lover of computer hardware).

Then, Russell dispenses with the motion to intervene in the coldest, most clinical way possible:

[T]he Court concludes that Sevier has failed to meet the standards for intervention as of right and for permissive intervention. He does not assert that he has either an unconditional or a conditional right to intervene by federal statute...

Finally, the Court finds that Sevier does not have "a claim or defense that shares with the main action a common question of law or fact."

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24 is not impossibly complicated. It allows outside parties to intervene in existing cases where their personal interests are at stake or where they have a case so similar in "law or fact" that their participation is warranted. In our own Love motion to intervene in the Bourke case, we argued that same sex couples who wished to be married in Kentucky had a claim that shared common questions of law and fact with same sex couples who were already married in other states but sought recognition in Kentucky. Judge John Heyburn agreed, and allowed two new couples to join the existing Bourke case.

Unfortunately, people who seek to marry inanimate objects are not so similarly situated. Perhaps the inability of a computer hard drive to consent to marriage was a factor in Judge Russell's decision to deny Mr. Sevier's motion to intervene. Or maybe it was a computer's inability to sign a marriage license. The fact that Kentucky marriage laws only refer to "persons" may have also made a difference. 

Whatever it was, the case of Love v. Beshear will now continue as scheduled. Currently before the Court is the Intervening Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment. In a few weeks, the Defendant will file his Response, and outside parties such as the Family Foundation of Kentucky will file amicus briefs. Finally, the plaintiffs will file their Reply to the Defendant's Response (and to any amici if the Court so allows). When the flurry of paperwork subsides, Judge Heyburn will issue a ruling.