Georgia’s Attorney General Sam Olens as Don Quixote– jousting at legal windmills!
By: Gary S. Cox
Georgia’s “defense” of its voter approved constitutional ban against same-sex marriage, filed in response to Lamda Legal Defense Fund’s challenge in April 2014, is an indefensible position by any measure. The state’s arguments note, “Plaintiffs may well be right that our nation is headed for a new national equilibrium on same-sex marriage. Indeed, in the last several years, at least eleven states have decided to expand their definition of marriage to include same-sex couples through the democratic process … And it seems as though each month new opinion polls are released showing increased public support for such changes in additional states. 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. 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.”
Even after acknowledging the sea-change in public opinion on same-sex marriage in their brief, Georgia steadfastly has decided to stand “in defense of marriage,” (one man plus one woman), based on the assertion that the challengers are asking the court to find ” … the people of Georgia no longer have the right to decide for themselves whether to define marriage in the way every state in our Union has defined it as recently as 2003.” However, the state failed to mention in their refutation that nation-wide there are 77 cases challenging state marriage laws similar to Georgia’s. Thus far, there have been 28 wins and zero losses for the pro same-sex marriage challengers. A stunning record of victory! Even North Carolina recently dropped its defense of its constitutional ban but not Georgia!
Though Georgia is in the 11th Circuit Court, the State Attorney General, Sam Olens, has decided to play Don Quixote and joust at legal wind mills wasting taxpayer dollars all in the name of election year politics (Olens is up for re-election and does have a qualified Democratic opponent in Attorney Greg Hecht.) He knows that the tide of legal cases is against him. He knows that marriage is nothing more than a legal contract that allows two individuals to receive Federal, state and local benefits that single people cannot receive. The marriage contract grants inheritance rights, visitation rights, tax filing rights, federal spousal benefits, state spousal benefits – and the list goes on to more than 128 “benefits” at all levels of government. There isn’t anything sacrosanct or magical about a marriage license. It is a mutually signed and witnessed document filed in the county of one’s residence. A license bestows mutual privileges and allows for joint participation in legal arrangements – it holds the spouses communally and legally answerable to each other regardless of gender.
The state of Georgia has failed to note how current law equally protects all its citizens. The state offers no rational argument for allowing marriage laws that discriminate against LGBT citizens. The “marriage is for procreation” claim, offered in most of the 28 cases won thus far, was not seen as a rational reason. The same applies to the “marriage protects children” contention. Protects children from what or whom? Two loving and caring individuals who want to be legally recognized by the state – like Christopher Innis and Shelton Stroman who have a nine year old son? How does discrimination against plaintiffs Rashawn Chandler and Dyana Bagby, who are Atlanta Police Officers, benefit society? Without the right to marry, God forbid if something happens to either police officer in the line of duty. While the city of Atlanta has Domestic Partnership legislation, it is simply not strong enough to protect the legal rights for two women who put their lives on the line for us on a daily basis. They need and deserve the right to marry and all the legal protections offered under this social contract.
We noted in the December 2013 edition of Blogging While Blue, “The last fourteen words of Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment were the key to striking down the Utah same-sex marriage ban and will be the key to challenging to Georgia’s constitutional same-sex marriage ban. It a matter of ‘just a matter of finding the right couple(s), just the right circumstances, just the right case(s) and we will most likely have legalized same-sex marriages in Georgia . . . it is just a matter time before that Trojan horse is left on the Federal Courthouse steps in Atlanta.” It seems Lambda Legal Defense Fund has found the right Georgia couples and the Trojan Horse seems to be on fire! An indefensible defense will not put out this fire.