Georgians Challenge State's Gay Marriage Ban Amendment

Apr 22, 2014

The country’s oldest and largest legal organization that works on behalf of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people filed a federal class action lawsuit today.

WABE’s Rose Scott reports, three same-sex couples and a widow, all Georgians, are challenging the state’s constitutional amendment that denies same sex marriage.

Christopher Inniss and his partner Shelton Stroman are among the plantiffs in the lawsuit.
Credit WABE 90.1 FM

Moving to another state that recognizes same-sex marriages was never the answer says Christopher Inniss.

“We have a son here that goes to school, who’s happy. We’re grounded here, we have a home. We have a business together here. It’s no way we would be moving. We love the state of Georgia. Every state sometimes has its problems, but this where our foundation is.”

Innis and his partner Shelton Stroman are part of the lawsuit.

Rayshawn and Avery Chandler are also married.

But the union is not legally recognized in Georgia, so the couple was married in Connecticut.

Still, neither believe moving out state is the answer.

“We don’t run, we stay in the fight and that’s we’re doing,” says Avery.

Rayshawn adds that, “this is our home and you have to make your home comfortable and you have to make it right for you.”

In Georgia, marriage is only recognized as a union between a man and woman.

That’s the core of 2004 amendment to the Georgia Constitution.

Beth Littrell, senior attorney for Lambda Legal, the organization filing the lawsuit, says

marriage matters for everyone.

“It matters to our plaintiffs. It matters to their children. It matters to thousands of same-sex couples across Georgia who are either married, want to be married and who may someday need to be married.”

In March, Jennifer Sisson lost her spouse, Pamela Drenner to ovarian cancer.

Despite being married in New York, in Georgia, the state did not allow Pamela’s death certificate to indicate she was married to Jennifer.

“I think it’s an unnecessary struggle that no one should have to face and that brings me here today. I figure the best way to honor her life and the love we had is to stand up, so that’s what I’m doing.”

Jeff Graham of Georgia Equality says gay Georgians need the protections to get married in the state they live in.

Jeff Graham is the executive director of Georgia Equality.
Credit WABE 90.1 FM

“There are so many that have gone through the struggles to go to another state or another part of the country to get married, but not everyone can do that.”

And that’s one of the reasons why Michael Bishop and Shane Thomas want to stay in Georgia and continue to raise their family.

“We are southerners. This is our home state, we’re proud Georgians.” says Bishop.

The couple has two children.

“At the end of the day it is all about family for us. We want our family to be recognized like any other family, we’re very ordinary people. We interact in the community in a very ordinary and we just want to be recognized like any other couple,” says Thomas.

The plaintiffs claim Georgia’s gay marriage ban violates the guarantees of equal protection and due process of law found in the 14th amendment to the U.S Constitution.

The lawsuit names Georgia’s state registrar and director of vital records as well as the Gwinnett County probate court clerk for denying marriage licenses to the couples.

Working alongside Lambda Legal by pro bono, is co-counsel from Bryan Cave and White & Case.