3 Atlanta couples challenge Ga. gay marriage ban


Shane Thomas (left) and Michael Bishop speak with Channel 2 Action News

ATLANTA, Ga. - Three same-sex couples and one widow are taking on Georgia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriages.

Lambda Legal plans to file the lawsuit on behalf of seven people and seeks class-action status. They plan to sue the state registrar and clerks of the Gwinnett and Fulton county probate courts.

Channel 2’s Kerry Kavanaugh spoke to the couples about the reason they wanted to be the face of this fight.

“We think it’s a unique opportunity to demonstrate to our kids and to the world the commitment we have to our family,” said Bishop. Bishop and his partner, Shane Thomas have attached their name to the federal lawsuit.

The lawsuit hopes to allow same-sex couples to marry in Georgia and for their marriages in other states to be recognized.

Two Atlanta police officers, Rayshawn and Avery Chandler, got married in Connecticut, but Georgia doesn’t recognize the union.

“We are normal people and our marriages deserve to be equal as anybody else's," said Avery.

Attorney Beth Littrell argues the State's ban, violates constitutional rights; singling same sex couples out.

“They're ineligible for thousands of state benefits, they're ineligible for hundreds of federal benefits based on Georgia's discriminatory marriage laws," Littrell said.

The referendum was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2004 and the Georgia Christian Coalition (GCC) would like to see it remain that way.

In an email sent to Channel 2 Action News, the GCC said:

"There is no right way to do a wrong thing and marriage outside the Original definition is simply wrong.  An increasing number of Georgia Christian Coalition Members are opposing us because what the opposition does sounds more Level playing field than the truth."

Kavanaugh said that even though Georgia voters approved the constitutional referendum, if a court finds it unconstitutional, it will be struck down.

The case was filed on behalf of Christopher Inniss and Shelton Stroman of Snellville, Rayshawn Chandler and Avery Chandler of Jonesboro, Michael Bishop and Shane Thomas of Atlanta, and Jennifer Sisson of Decatur.

"Georgia is our home. Our family is here, our business is here, and our community here is a great support for us," said Inniss, veterinarian and pet resort owner.

"Shelton and I have been together for 13 years. We own a home together, we own a business together, and we are raising our son, Jonathan, together. We have done everything we can to protect and take responsibility for our family but marriage is the only way to ensure that we are treated as the family that we are. We need the protection that marriage affords."

Lead plaintiffs Inniss, 39, and his partner Stroman, 41, have been together for 13 years. Their son, Jonathan, is 9.