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Same-Sex Marriage History
Lambda Legal has filed a federal lawsuit today, April 22, 2014, challenging Georgia’s ban on gay marriage on behalf of three same-sex couples and a widow, it announced at a press conference today:
The case was filed on behalf of Christopher Inniss and Shelton Stroman of Snellville, Rayshawn Chandler and Avery Chandler of Jonesboro, Michael Bishop and Shane Thomas of Atlanta, and Jennifer Sisson of Decatur.
Joining Inniss and Stroman as plaintiffs in the lawsuit are: Rayshawn Chandler, 29, and Avery Chandler, 30, Atlanta Police Department police officers who have been together for almost three years; Michael Bishop, 50, and Shane Thomas, 44, together for seven years and the parents of two children; and Jennifer Sisson, 34, whose wife, Pamela Drenner, died on March 1 at age 49. Jennifer and Pam were married in New York in 2013. Despite being legally married, the State of Georgia has refused to list Jennifer as Pam’s wife on Pam’s death certificate.
Said Inniss, a veterinarian and pet resort owner:
“Georgia is our home. Our family is here, our business is here, and our community here is a great support for us. Shelton and I have been together for 13 years. We own a home together, we own a business together, and we are raising our son, Jonathan, together. We have done everything we can to protect and take responsibility for our family but marriage is the only way to ensure that we are treated as the family that we are. We need the protection that marriage affords.”
Said Tara Borelli, Senior Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta:
“Every day that same-sex couples in Georgia are denied the freedom to marry, the government sends a message that their families are not worthy of dignity and respect. Georgians believe in the Southern values of love, honor and family, but as long as the State of Georgia continues to bar same-sex couples from marriage, it devalues these families and reinforces unfairness and discrimination.”
The Georgia Voice also has a few more interviews with all the plaintiffs
Georgia attorney general Sam Olens has asked a judge to dismiss a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, reports ABC News.
Olens said in a July 21, 2014, filing that Lambda Legal’s lawsuit takes away Georgia residents’ right to define marriage.
In 2004, Georgia voters supported a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Despite a later challenge, the state Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the vote was valid.
While acknowledging moves in other states to legalize same-sex marriage, Olen’s brief states that “judicially imposing such a result now would merely wrest a potentially unifying popular victory from the hands of supporters and replace it instead with the stale conformity of compulsion.”
Olens also argued that recent decisions striking down constitutional bans in other states should not apply to Georgia because the state’s marriage laws do not imply a right to marry someone of the same sex.
According to Beth Littrell, a senior attorney for Lambda Legal and co-counsel on the case, “this is a strong indication the attorney general plans on defending the marriage ban regardless of the precedent lining up against him that the federal Constitution provides to all citizens the right to marry the person they love.”
In April, Art Gardner, one of seven Republicans running for retiring Senator Saxby Chambliss’s U.S. Senate seat in Georgia, announced his support for Lambda Legal’s suit and asked Olens to not fight the suit.
Georgia State Marriage Laws
2010 Georgia Code
TITLE 19 – DOMESTIC RELATIONS
CHAPTER 3 – MARRIAGE GENERALLY
ARTICLE 2 – LICENSE AND CEREMONY
§ 19-3-30 – Issuance, return, and recording of license
O.C.G.A. 19-3-30 (2010)
(a) Marriage licenses shall be issued only by the judge of the probate court or his clerk at the county courthouse between the hours of 8:00 A.M. and 6:00 P.M., Monday through Saturday.
(b) (1) No marriage license shall be issued to persons of the same sex.
(2) If one of the persons to be married is a resident of this state, the license may be issued in any county of this state. If neither the male nor the female to be married is a resident of this state, the license shall be issued in the county in which the ceremony is to be performed.
(c) The license shall be directed to the Governor or any former Governor of this state, any judge, including judges of state and federal courts of record in this state, city recorder, magistrate, minister, or other person of any religious society or sect authorized by the rules of such society to perform the marriage ceremony; such license shall authorize the marriage of the persons therein named and require the Governor or any former Governor of this state, judge, city recorder, magistrate, minister, or other authorized person to return the license to the judge of the probate court with the certificate thereon as to the fact and date of marriage within 30 days after the date of the marriage. The license with the return thereon shall be recorded by the judge in a book kept by such judge for that purpose.
(d) The fact of issue of any unrecorded marriage license may be established by affidavit of either party to a ceremonial marriage, which affidavit shall set forth the date, the place, and the name and title of the official issuing the license.
(e) In the event that any marriage license is not returned for recording, as provided in subsection (c) of this Code section, either party to a ceremonial marriage may establish the marriage by submitting to the judge of the probate court the affidavits of two witnesses to the marriage ceremony setting forth the date, the place, and the name of the official or minister performing the ceremony. The judge shall thereupon reissue the marriage license and enter thereon the certificate of marriage and all dates and names in accordance with the evidence submitted and shall record and cross-index same in the proper chronological order in the book kept for that purpose.
(f) Any other provisions of this Code section or any other law to the contrary notwithstanding, the judge of the probate court of any county which has within its boundaries a municipality that has a population according to the United States decennial census of 1950 or any future such census greater than that of the county seat of the county is authorized to appoint a clerk for the purpose of granting marriage licenses in the municipality at an office designated by the judge. The licenses shall be issued only between the hours prescribed in subsection (a) of this Code section.
§ 19-3-39 – Certification and recordation of marriage after publication of banns
O.C.G.A. 19-3-39 (2010)
If the Governor or any former Governor of this state, any judge, city recorder, magistrate, minister, or other authorized person joins in marriage persons whose banns have been published, the person shall certify the fact to the judge of the probate court of the county where the banns were published, who shall record the same in the same book in which marriage licenses are recorded.
§ 19-3-42 – Effect on marriage of want of authority in person officiating
O.C.G.A. 19-3-42 (2010)
A marriage which is valid in other respects and supposed by the parties to be valid shall not be affected by want of authority in the minister, Governor or any former Governor of this state, judge, city recorder, magistrate, or other person to solemnize the same; nor shall such objection be heard from one party who has fraudulently induced the other to believe that the marriage was legal.
§ 19-3-46 – Forfeiture for officiating at marriage without license or banns
O.C.G.A. 19-3-46 (2010)
The Governor or any former Governor of this state, any judge, city recorder, magistrate, minister, or other person authorized to perform the marriage ceremony who joins in marriage any couple without a license or the publication of banns shall forfeit the sum of $500.00, to be recovered and appropriated as set forth in Code Section 19-3-45.
§ 19-3-48 – Penalty for officiating at illegal marriage ceremony
O.C.G.A. 19-3-48 (2010)
If the Governor or any former Governor of this state, any judge, city recorder, magistrate, minister, or other person authorized to perform the marriage ceremony joins together in matrimony any man and woman without a license or the publication of banns or if the person performing the marriage ceremony knows of any disability of either of the parties which would render a contract of marriage improper and illegal, that person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
§ 19-3-49 – Acceptance by judges of tips, consideration, or gratuities
O.C.G.A. 19-3-49 (2010)
In addition to any compensation otherwise provided by law, any judge who performs a marriage ceremony at any time, except normal office hours, may receive and retain as personal income any tip, consideration, or gratuity voluntarily given to such judge for performing such marriage ceremony.