By Daniel Reynolds
Originally published on Advocate.com April 22 2014 2:20 PM ET
Three same-sex couples and a widow have become the first to sue the state of Georgia for the right to marry.
Lambda Legal filed a class-action lawsuit today on behalf of these plaintiffs that contests Georgia’s 2004 voter-approved constitutional amendment bannng same-sex marriages as well as recognition of such unions performed in other states.
The nonprofit legal organization represents Rayshawn and Avery Chandler, Michael Bishop and Shane Thomas, Jennifer Sisson, and lead plaintiffs Christopher Inniss and Shelton Stroman in this federal lawsuit.
“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,” said Tara Borelli, a senior attorney in Lambda Legal’s Atlanta office. “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.”
Plaintiffs Bishop, 44, and Thomas, 50, joined the lawsuit after being denied a marriage license April 10 at the Fulton County Probate Court. In an interview with WGCL TV, the couple, who have been together seven years and are raising a 3-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son, cited family and a desire to remain in their home state as primary motivators behind their decision to take action.
“We live our lives very privately, and for us to move into the spotlight for this purpose took a lot of thought and deliberation,” Bishop said. “We are proud Georgians; this is where we want to live. We want to have protection under the law of our family and our relationship here in our home state. That is absolutely important to us.”
Until today, Georgia had been the last Southern state in which there had been no lawsuit seeking marriage rights for same-sex couples. Nationally, four states still have uncontested bans on same-sex marriage: North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Nebraska.