Savannah gay couples seek marriage licenses

SAVANNAH, Ga. — Four homosexual couples from Chatham County gathered at 9:30 a.m. Thursday and walked in to the Chatham County Courthouse to apply for marriage licenses.

The couples knew they would be denied a license under Georgia’s ban on gay marriages, but they wanted to participate in the May Day Georgia Marriage Equality Campaign.

The campaign was started by a gay couple from the Atlanta area, Sabrina and Joyce Jones-Smith, of LouddMouthRadio.com, and the initiative called on gay couples who want to get married to go to their courthouse in Georgia on May 1 to peacefully apply for a marriage license.

The group then asked couples to take a photo of their denial papers from the court and post them on social media with the hashtag #MayDayGaEquality. They hope the movement will catch the attention of the state Legislature to overturn the ban on gay marriage in Georgia.

Pastor Candace Hardnett and evangelist Erika Majors, from Agape Empowerment Ministries, were one of the couples who applied for a marriage license.

The Probate Court is responsible for issuing marriage licenses, and the couples made their way up to the courthouse’s fifth floor, the location of the Probate Court.

“We knew we would get denied,” Hardnett said. “But it was still discouraging to be treated in that manner. We watched a heterosexual couple approach the clerk before us, and she handed them their application on a clipboard with pens, but when we approached she just handed us the application with no pens or clipboard. It was obvious her attitude was already very discouraged.”

Majors agreed about the cool reception from the clerk.

“One couple with us had already gotten legally married in Maryland, and they were told they couldn’t fill out a marriage license, but I know they let them do that in other counties in Georgia, like Fulton,” Majors said.

The chief clerk/administrator for Chatham’s Probate Court, Kim Birge, said she was on hand when the couples entered the court and confirmed the couple that was already married was not allowed to apply again for another marriage license.

“If you are married, you are married,” she said. “You can’t get married once you are already married … whether it’s a same-sex marriage or not.”

Birge maintains that her staff was professional during the encounter.

“Everyone was treated very respectfully. We follow the law to the letter,” she said. “I saw no one acting rude. We don’t act rude. … I thought we treated them very well.”

Birge said that Probate Court is responsible for handling a laundry list of documents like wills, adoptions and other sensitive items and that it’s hard to make sure everyone feels they are getting the attention they feel they deserve.

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