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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Gay couples apply for marriage license in Decatur, get denied

Five same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses at the Probate Court at the Dekalb County courthouse in Decatur as part of the WE DO campaign. It happened on the same day that the Supreme Court announced it would hear two gay marriage cases in late March.

The WE DO campaign calls for "for full equality under federal law for LGBT individuals and families."

Beyond just creating awareness about marriage equality, the campaign is also focused on legal protection for LGBT citizens, protecting them from being fired from their jobs, getting denied housing, or facing eviction because of their sexual preference.

The civil rights group, which is organized by the Campaign for Southern Equality, will move to several other Southern states in the coming days before ending at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Roughly 100 people marched silently from the Decatur Public Library to the Dekalb County courthouse. Outside the building, the Rev. Joe Hoffman led an inner-faith prayer circle.

"We gather today to celebrate love and to call for equality," Hoffman said as the group held hands in a wide circle.

Afterwards, the five same-sex couples entered the courthouse, passing under a sign that read "marriage and pistol licenses," and entered the marriage licenses office. The couples entered the room two at a time and approached the desk to request a license.

"We can't give a marriage license for same-sex marriage," Elizabeth Lewis, probate court supervisor, told Daphine Green and Kimberly Green. The Oakhurst couple, who have been together for three years, said that they would be back on "another day."

Rob Anglin and his partner Jens Palsgaard followed with their own request for a marriage license, but were also denied by the Probate Court.

"This is the law and I am an officer of the court, a clerk of the court," said Mary Jones, the Probate Court's senior tech. "I just can't do it, I am so sorry."

Rob Anglin responded: "I understand and I respect that. Hopefully things will change in the future and you will be able to let people have their day together and be afforded the respect that they deserve."

Although same-sex marriages are not recognized in Georgia, couples can now legally tie the knot in nine states as well as in the District of Columbia. In addition, Rhode Island and New Mexico recognize similar marriages performed outside of their jurisdictions. Twenty other states offer some form of protection for same-sex couples.

"Not only is same sex marriage not recognized in the state of Georgia, but gay people can be fired and denied housing just for being gay," said Aaron Sarvar of the Campaign for Southern Equality. "People are surprised to find that out, but it's true."

The Decatur rally followed Supreme Court's announcement that they would hear two cases in late March regarding gay marriage. One case focuses on California's Proposition 8, which makes same sex marriage illegal in California, and the other case looks at the denial of federal benefits to gay couples, who legally marry in a state that allows it but are not given the right to receive benefits that are available to heterosexual married couples. Both cases will be heard on March 26-27.

Kimberly (left) and  Daphine Green share a moment before applying and being denied their marriage license.
  • Joeff Davis
  • Kimberly (left) and Daphine Green share a moment before applying and being denied their marriage license.

Rob Anglin (tie) and Jens Palsgaard look on as the word denied is written across their application for a marriage license in Decatur on Monday.
  • Joeff Davis
  • Rob Anglin (tie) and Jens Palsgaard look on as the word "denied" is written across their application for a marriage license in Decatur on Monday.

Amanda Styles (left) and Megan Swett head towards the exit of the Decatur courthouse after being denied a marriage license. They have been together for 13 years.
  • Joeff Davis
  • Amanda Styles (left) and Megan Swett head towards the exit of the Decatur courthouse after being denied a marriage license. They have been together for 13 years.

Kathy Bragg (left) and Linda Edwards were one of the five couples that applied and were denied a marriage license on Monday. They have been together for 30 years. The most significant thing is that we are even able to ask for a license, I am 70 years old and I would have never thought of asking 20 years ago, said Edwards.
  • Joeff Davis
  • Kathy Bragg (left) and Linda Edwards were one of the five couples that applied and were denied a marriage license on Monday. They have been together for 30 years. "The most significant thing is that we are even able to ask for a license, I am 70 years old and I would have never thought of asking 20 years ago," said Edwards.

Beth Schissel (left) and Sally White at a press conference after they were denied a marriage license at the Decatur courthouse. Beth was discharged from the military in 2001 for being gay. They have been together for 15 years and have raised six children.
  • Joeff Davis
  • Beth Schissel (left) and Sally White at a press conference after they were denied a marriage license at the Decatur courthouse. Beth was discharged from the military in 2001 for being gay. They have been together for 15 years and have raised six children.

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