April 24, 2014
A 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.
The case is Inniss v. Aderhold.