Judge refuses to dismiss challenge to Georgia’s same-sex marriage ban

Shelton Stroman, left, and Christopher Inniss at home with their son Jonathan, 9, Thursday, April 17, 2014, in Snellville, Ga. The couple are lead plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit challenging Georgia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriages. David Goldman, AP

Shelton Stroman, left, and Christopher Inniss at home with their son Jonathan, 9, Thursday, April 17, 2014, in Snellville, Ga. The couple are lead plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit challenging Georgia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriages.David Goldman, AP

Shelton Stroman, left, and Christopher Inniss at home with their son Jonathan, 9, Thursday, April 17, 2014, in Snellville, Ga. The couple are lead plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit challenging Georgia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriages.

ATLANTA — A challenge to Georgia’s gay marriage ban will go forward, with a federal judge on Thursday declining to dismiss a lawsuit that says the state’s ban violates their constitutional rights.

Lawyers with the attorney general’s office had argued that the state has a legitimate interest in “encouraging the raising of children in homes consisting of a married mother and father” and that the ban on same-sex marriage is rationally related to that interest.

But U.S. District Judge William Duffey wrote in an opinion Thursday that the state failed to address how those interests are furthered by the ban on same-sex marriages and the refusal to recognize legal marriages performed in other states.

Lambda Legal, a national organization that focuses on legal issues affecting the LGBT community, filed the lawsuit in April.

“We’re delighted that the court ruled that our case should go forward, and that our plaintiffs must be allowed to have their day in court,” Lambda Legal lawyer Tara Borelli wrote in an email. “The writing is on the wall for the minority of states like Georgia who still deny equality to same-sex couples and their children, and we can’t wait for the day when these families are afforded equal dignity under the law.”

The lawsuit in Georgia was filed on behalf of seven people and is one of many such lawsuits nationwide.

With a split among federal appellate courts, intervention by the Supreme Court to settle gay marriage constitutionality has become very likely. Between the appellate rulings and the Supreme Court’s decision in October to turn away state appeals, the number of states allowing same-sex couples to marry has risen to 36.

Spokeswoman Lauren Kane said in an email that the Georgia attorney general’s office will continue to defend the state’s law but looks forward to further clarification from the Supreme Court,

Georgia voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban on gay marriage in 2004. Gay rights groups filed lawsuits in state court challenging the wording of the ballot question, but the state Supreme Court ultimately ruled the vote was valid in 2006.

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 that Georgia will recognize only the union of a man and a woman as marriage and that same-sex marriages performed in others states are not legally recognized.

The opinion and order is here

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