How Alabama may help Georgia get gay marriage

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That sad map about the reality of gay marriage in Georgia notwithstanding, there is hope for marriage equality in the state. But it just might come from Alabama.

Gay marriage is banned in 33 states and Georgia is one of five of those that hasn't seen a lawsuit filed to challenge the prohibition. Surprisingly, every Southern state but Georgia has a legal challenge; some 55 lawsuits are pending in 28 states. It's a fact that HRC highlighted during a conference last week and again Tuesday.

Dozens of court cases challenging state constitutional bans on marriage equality have been filed across the country in recent months.  Yet in five states – Alaska, Georgia, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota – there is currently no litigation challenging the constitutionality of their state marriage bans. Today, 33 states prohibit marriage for same-sex couples, either in the form of statutory law or amendment to the state’s constitution.

The thinking has been gay marriage will come to Georgia after lots of money is spent or lots of old people die. Yet, someone is optimistic it will come through the courts.

“Georgia’s committed and loving gay and lesbian couples deserve the rights and protections that come with marriage, plain and simple,” said Fred Sainz, vice president for communications at the Human Rights Campaign.  “Since the Supreme Court’s landmark marriage rulings last year, not a single state marriage ban has survived a federal court challenge.  It’s only a matter of time before marriage equality is the law of the land in every corner of this great country.”

How might that happen? In a scenario that gays in Georgia might have seen as implausible. Hey there, Alabama. (And Florida.)

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has appellate jurisdiction over the district courts of Alabama, Florida and Georgia.  Currently there is one marriage case in Alabama and four in Florida. Hard v. Bentley out of Alabama is challenging that state’s marriage ban, which created legal obstacles for a man suing over the wrongful death of his husband.  In Florida’s Pareto v. Ruvin, all of the plaintiffs applied for marriage licenses in Miami-Dade County, and were denied the license because of the states constitutional marriage ban.  In Grimsley v. Scott and Brenner v. Scott, the plaintiffs are legally married same-sex couple residing in Florida and suing for the state to recognize their marriages as valid.

Because Alabama. Who'da thunk it.

Photo: Paul Hard and David Fancher

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