Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit in April on behalf of seven people. Attorney General Sam Olens, representing the state registrar, said in a filing Monday that the suit takes away Georgia residents’ right to define marriage.
Olens’ brief acknowledges a movement in some states to recognize same-sex marriage and public opinion polls that support those changes.
“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,” the brief says. “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.”
Beth Littrell, a senior attorney for Lambda Legal and co-counsel on the Georgia case, said Olens’ arguments are “dead wrong” and have been rejected in other challenges to state bans on same-sex marriage.
“This is a strong indication the attorney general plans on defending the marriage ban regardless of the precedent lining up against him that the federal Constitution provides to all citizens the right to marry the person they love,” Littrell said.
Georgia voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban on gay marriage in 2004. It was challenged in courts over wording of the ballot question, but the state Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the vote was valid.
The current lawsuit filed in federal court challenges the ban itself, rather than the ballot wording.
The state constitution prohibits same-sex marriage and says such marriages performed in other states aren’t legally recognized in Georgia.
The Supreme Court last year found that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which forbade the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage, improperly deprived gay couples of due process. Lower-court judges have cited that decision when striking down bans in other states.
Olens’ brief says that should not apply to Georgia because the state’s marriage laws do not imply a right to marry someone of the same sex.
Same-sex marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Bans that have been overturned in some other states continue to make their way through the courts.