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Lawsuit challenges Georgia’s same-sex marriage ban

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gasealA new class-action lawsuit has been filed seeking marriage rights for same-sex couples, this time in Georgia. Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit in the Northern District of Georgia on behalf of seven named plaintiffs who will represent a class consisting of “all Georgia residents who are unmarried same-sex couples and all Georgia residents.” The plaintiffs include a married couple, couples seeking to marry and raise their children together, and a woman who recently lost her wife to ovarian cancer. The lawsuit challenges the ban on performing marriages in Georgia, as well as the non-recognition provisions:

“This lawsuit is really about these loving couples trying to protect their families in the same way that different-sex couples can do,” said Tara Borelli, senior attorney with Lambda Legal, the national legal group seeking full recognition of the legal rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people.
Georgia, where 76% of voters ratified a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriages in 2004, was late to the table because “there’s been an attempt to make strategic decisions about the places where we’d have the best chance of success,” Borelli said. “But it became clear as time went on that Georgia should be on that list.”

Lambda Legal issued a press release on their lawsuit, which reads in part:

:Tara Borelli, Senior Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta, said:

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.

Beth Littrell, Senior Attorney also based in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office, said:

Georgia joins a growing chorus of Southern voices clamoring for marriage equality. The freedom to marry is indeed coming south. We do not want a country divided by unfairness and discrimination. Same-sex couples are in loving, committed relationships in every region of our nation and should be treated the same way, whether they live in the Empire State or the Peach State.

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’swife on Pam’s death certificate.

In the lawsuit, Lambda Legal, joined by pro bono co-counsel from Bryan Cave and White & Case, argues that Georgia’s marriage ban unfairly discriminates against same-sex couples and sends a purposeful message that lesbians, gay men, and their children are second-class citizens who are undeserving of the legal sanction, respect, protections, and support that different-sex couples and their families are able to enjoy through marriage.

You can read more about the couples here. The complaint is here, thanks to Kathleen Perrin and Equality Case Files.

The case is Inniss v. Aderhold.


  • 1. Randolph Finder  |  April 24, 2014 at 10:04 am

    This leaves just the Dakotas with no active ME lawsuit (for states without ME)?

  • 2. Dann  |  April 24, 2014 at 10:07 am

    Alaska and Montana as well.

  • 3. OctaA  |  April 24, 2014 at 11:23 am

    The Dakotas are the only states without either marriage equality or an ME or ME related lawsuit.

    Alaska, Montana, Nebraska, Kansas and Mississippi all have lawsuits related to ME, but are not actively seeking ME itself.

    Ohio and Tennessee have lawsuits seeking marriage recognition but not marriage equality.

    I believe all other states either have marriage equality or lawsuits seeking both marriage equality and recognition.

  • 4. Ragavendran  |  April 24, 2014 at 11:28 am

    South Dakota’s ban is expected to be challenged next week. That challenge will be brought by Nancy Robrahn and her partner Jen Rosenberg, who plan to wed in Minneapolis this week before immediately returning home to challenge their state’s ban by filing a name-change request. The pair hopes to challenge the ban by May 1 (next Thursday).

  • 5. Michael Grabow  |  April 24, 2014 at 11:38 am

    That's great! This article from last month led me to believe they weren't planning anything for awhile.

  • 6. Rose  |  April 24, 2014 at 10:11 am

    Did ya folks forget Idaho?

  • 7. DaveM  |  April 24, 2014 at 10:18 am

    Nope. Latta v. Otter, hearing scheduled for May 5.

  • 8. Rose  |  April 24, 2014 at 8:08 pm


    Okay folks……I have a question……..hopefully someone can answer it for me…….will the ruling from SCOTUS regarding Affirmative Action in Michigan have ANY affect on our fight for marriage equality?

  • 9. Tim  |  April 24, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Yes – It could help gain marriage equality.

    See comments here:

    And in this thread:

    And, lastly, in this one by Retired_Laywer and others:

  • 10. Rose  |  April 24, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    Thank you:-)

  • 11. Rik  |  April 24, 2014 at 10:37 am

    Second Texas court rules the ban is unconstitutional

  • 12. Rik  |  April 24, 2014 at 10:37 am

    In the ruling the judge says there is no rational justification for the ban

  • 13. Michael Grabow  |  April 24, 2014 at 11:17 am

    Oh, weird…this happened yesterday? Granted this isn't the first ruling for Texas, but I guess it's a good thing that bans being ruled as unconstitutional isn't ground breaking news anymore!

  • 14. Ragavendran  |  April 24, 2014 at 11:21 am

    So true. And it's saving more trees. This opinion only took 5 pages to reach the conclusion.

  • 15. Michael Grabow  |  April 24, 2014 at 11:26 am

    Judith K. Wemmert, who's representing Allison Flood Lesh, said her client hasn't seen her daughter in about eight months and was “on cloud nine” after hearing the ruling.

    That is incredibly saddening.

    A child born in a straight marriage or a legal same-sex marriage is considered a child to both parents, which is known as parental presumption, Hecht-McGowan said. But in cases such as this involving a couple in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage, the child is only considered legally the child of the birth mother.

    Maybe I'm just missing the obvious here, but what happens in cases of adopted children who live in states without recognition when the couples splits up? What would happen if the police were called in a dispute?

  • 16. Pat  |  April 24, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    So this case is apparently called A.L.F.L. v. K.L.L.
    It doesn't seem to be listed on… was it's name changed, or is the Freedom To Marry page not up-to-date?

  • 17. Dr. Z  |  April 24, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    This latest Texas ruling seems to have taken a new legal line, that the rights of the children of gay couples are being unconstitutionally abridged. Wow. That's an irrefutable argument.

  • 18. SeattleRobin  |  April 24, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    Also interesting, at the end of the article it says a recent poll shows for the first time ever that more Texans support marriage equality than oppose it. That's great news!

  • 19. Ragavendran  |  April 24, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    It seems Chief Justice Roberts was for gay rights not too long ago:

    Donating his time pro bono, he helped us win Romer, which we all know was a turning point for gay rights in the post-Bowers Supreme Court jurisprudence. Did anybody know this? I just stumbled on it by accident today for an article I'm writing. He joined the Court post-Lawrence, and voted to dismiss both Windsor and Hollingsworth on standing grounds. Furthermore, in Windsor, he did think DOMA was constitutional based on Congress's interests in "uniformity and stability", disagreeing with Kennedy's finding of animus. He also obviously foreshadowed (twice, in his three-page dissent) constitutional challenges to state marriage bans reaching the Court. I wonder where he stands on the merits of those challenges – how much has he evolved since Romer?

  • 20. Tim  |  April 24, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    I did know that.

  • 21. Dr. Z  |  April 24, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    This came out during his confirmation hearings.

  • 22. Jay Jonson  |  April 24, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    I knew it. But it is usually placed in a context that implies his help on a pro bono case accepted by his law firm was no indication of his own views. He apparently advised on what strategy to use that might gain particular justices to rule against Amendment 2. I would not take this information as evidence that he supported gay rights. He certainly has not given any sign of support for gay rights since he has been on the Court. I cannot think of any decision in which he has been on our side.

  • 23. bythesea  |  April 24, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    I think it is possible, but not a given, that Roberts may join the majority in a nationwide ruling due to it's historic nature (with his own reasoning though). However, it really won't be decisive and wouldn't shock me if he doesn't bother.

  • 24. Dr. Z  |  April 24, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    There was one. After Washington DC enacted SSM in 2010(?) as I recall there was an effort by one African-American pastor to force a referendum on repealing the law. However, after Anita Bryant used a popular referendum to repeal Miami's gay rights ordinance in 1977, Washington DC enacted a law prohibiting popular referendums that restrict civil rights. The homophobic pastor sued to overturn the law and lost in federal court. He appealed to SCOTUS and lost – and as I recall Roberts voted with us on that occasion. I don't remember the name of the lawsuit but I seem to recall Roberts making a remark to the effect that he kind of wanted to side with the bigot but he couldn't, because the Reverend Phobe didn't have a ghost of a case. "You have to have an argument" or words to that effect.

  • 25. Ragavendran  |  April 24, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    I think the case you are referring to is Jackson v. DC Board of Elections and Ethics. The pastor, Jackson, filed a request for an emergency stay to prevent the same sex marriage law from taking effect as scheduled on March 3, 2010. Chief Justice Roberts denied the stay request. Jackson's attempts in DC were four-fold, hilariously dubbed Jackson I, Jackson II, Jackson III and Jackson IV. See this article for the details.

    But there is one case, CLS v. Martinez, where Ginsburg wrote for the Court holding that a public law college's policy requiring that all student organizations allow any student to join was constitutional. But Roberts was part of the dissent.

  • 26. Jay Jonson  |  April 24, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    In theJackson case, Roberts denied the stay, but he did so in a way that indicated that Jackson might prevail at trial. Subsequently, the DC appellate court ruled against Jackson on a split vote. IIRC, SCOTUS refused to grant cert. when it was appealed. In any case, Roberts is no friend of ours. I would be very surprised if he joined in any decision in favor of marriage equality.

  • 27. StraightDave  |  April 25, 2014 at 6:22 am

    IIRC, the immediate impact of the stay denial was that marriages would begin happening on Mar 3, regardless of any subsequent legal activites. My reaction at the time was that Roberts seemed not to panic at the thought of some SS couples getting married, which he had the power to delay if he wanted to. I was pleasantly surprised,but started to associate it to his role in Romer, which I knew about at the time.

    Trying to wad all that up together with his position in Citizens United and the ACA makes Roberts an enigma to me. I can't quite label him a card-carrying bigot, but I wouldn't bet a nickel on him, either.

  • 28. Ragavendran  |  April 26, 2014 at 11:30 pm

    Here's a draft of that article I've been working on… if anyone is interested:

  • 29. peruvian hair extensions&hellip  |  April 28, 2014 at 8:01 pm

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