Tuesday, July 22, 2014

AG wants lawsuit challenging Georgia's gay marriage ban dismissed

Posted By on Tue, Jul 22, 2014 at 10:46 AM

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens has called for the dismissal of a lawsuit contesting the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Last April, several gay couples filed a class-action lawsuit challenging the same-sex marriage ban that's been on Georgia's books for nearly a decade. The lawsuit included Michael Bishop and Shane Thomas of Midtown; Rayshawn Chandler and Avery Chandler of Jonesboro; Christopher Inniss and Shelton Stroman of Snellville; and Jennifer Sisson, whose wife Pamela Drenner passed away earlier this year.

In 2004, Georgians voted in favor of a constitutional amendment that made it illegal for the state to acknowledge or perform gay marriages and civil unions. Most other states' bans have been challenged - and in some cases, overturned - following the U.S. Supreme Court's June 2013 ruling that deemed the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional. Georgia was one of the last states to have such a lawsuit filed.

The Associated Press' Kathleen Foody explains the state attorney general's decision to ask for the federal lawsuit's dismissal:

Attorney General Sam Olens, representing the state registrar, said in a filing Monday that the suit takes away Georgia residents' right to define marriage.

Olens' brief acknowledges a movement in some states to recognize same-sex marriage and public opinion polls that support those changes.

"But 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," the brief says. "This Court should reject Plaintiffs' invitation to disregard controlling precedent, decline to anticipate a future ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, and dismiss Plaintiffs' claims in their entirety."

The Georgia Voice's Patrick Saunders chatted with Lambda Legal, an LGBT-focused legal group that filed the lawsuit on behalf of seven different people, about Olens' decision:

Lambda Legal senior attorney Tara Borelli weighed in on the Olens brief, saying, “This brief raises the same arguments that have been rejected time and time again in several federal courts unanimously since Windsor was decided.”

Borelli cited Olens’ argument in the brief about Baker v. Nelson, in which the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that a state law limiting marriage to opposite sex couples did not violate the U.S. Constitution.

“This is an argument that isn’t even a question to be answered by the court,” Borellis says. “This is a one-sentence decision issued by the Supreme Court 42 years ago. Obviously a lot has changed since then.”

Georgia Equality yesterday delivered more than 3,000 signed petitions to Olens' office asking him to not defend Georgia's gay marriage ban.

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