Gay marriage backers rally against Georgia ban

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More than 100 people rallied for gay marriage alongside a host of clergy members and elected officials on Thursday outside Atlanta City Hall.

The event, organized by Georgia Equality, came a day after Attorney General Sam Olens again tried to swat down efforts to overturn the state's gay marriage ban. Organizers hoped to use the rally to pressure Olens to stop defending the marriage ban.

“There is no reason why Sam Olens should not drop his defense. That is why we must do everything in our power to send a message to the leadership of this state that this is one area where Georgia cannot afford to be last,” Jeff Graham (top photo), executive director of Georgia Equality, told the crowd.

On Wednesday, Olens argued in a legal filing that the “fundamental right” of marriage should not be extended to gay couples, nevermind a rash of recent court decisions bringing same-sex marriage to more than 30 states. Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit in April challenging Georgia's gay marriage ban.

Speakers at the rally included a mix of clergy, elected officials and gay couples who argued for gay marriage in Georgia, including Rev. Josh Noblitt, Rev. Duncan Teague, Larry and Nolan Carter, Satyam Barakoti and Tonja Holder, Bill Whitaker and Matthew Malok, PFLAG Atlanta board member David Stivers, and James Richardson, a Republican consultant who recently came out as gay.

“I have been unwavering, I have not changed my mind and I still say today that I am a supporter of marriage equality,” Fulton Commission Chair John Eaves told the crowd.

Eaves came out in support of marriage equality in his 2010 re-election campaign when he faced then-former Atlanta City Council member Mary Norwood, a pro-gay candidate who backed same-sex unions during her mayoral run in 2009. Norwood, who re-gained her Council seat last year, was among a handful of elected officials at the event, including lesbian Pine Lake Mayor Kathie deNobriga, state Sen. Vincent Fort and gay former Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard.

In July, Georgia Equality tried to deliver more than 3,000 petitions to Olens' office, calling on him to drop his gay marriage ban defense. State troopers wouldn't allow the group of about 20 people past a security checkpoint and an Olens' staffer was dispatched to collect the documents.

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