Art Gardner, running in a packed field for the GOP nomination to replace Saxby Chambliss in the U.S. Senate, issued a statement today in support of Lambda Legal’s class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday seeking to overturn Georgia’s same-sex marriage ban.

Gardner has separated himself from the other candidates with his vocal support of marriage equality.

“I support marriage equality and I call on all liberty-minded Republicans to join me in supporting this suit.  I also call on Attorney General Sam Olens, a fellow Republican, to not fight the suit, but to allow the plaintiffs to obtain a favorable judgment directly,” Gardner said in the statement.

Gardner said defending this lawsuit “is a waste of taxpayer money.”

“My rationale is that the state is very likely to lose this suit and it is a waste of taxpayer money to fight it.  In this time of tight budgets, the state can better use that money for other purposes,” Gardner said.

“I am a fiscal conservative, what some might call a budget hawk, and throwing hard-earned tax dollars away on fighting this suit is unwise. Moreover, it is also time for the state of Georgia and the Republican Party to get ahead of this issue. We (the GOP) are the original civil rights party, the Party of Lincoln, the party that strongly supported the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. This suit presents our party with a golden opportunity to steer a bold new course, one that will set the State of Georgia and the Georgia GOP on an upward path. I call on my fellow members of the GOP to join me in supporting the suit and urging the Attorney General to not fight it,” he added.

Gardner said he is considering organizing a rally for all Georgians, regardless of party, to show support of marriage equality.

Other candidates seeking the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate are:

• Karen Handel, former Secretary of State who also ran for governor in 2010 and in this race the backing of Tea Party darling Sarah Palin. Palin also has a mixed history with supporting gay people when running for early office before not supporting them at all in any way as she seeks higher office.

• U.S. Rep. Paul Broun of Athens, who in 2009 introduced a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and also says evolution is “lies from the pit of hell.

• U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey of Marietta, who defended U.S. Rep. Todd Akins’ (R-Miss.) comments that a woman’s body shuts down when she is raped and therefore prevents her from getting pregnant by saying he was “partly right.” He also of course supports the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act and thinks children become confused about their genders unless taught at a very young age only girls can like certain things and only boys can like certain things.

•Conservative activist Derrick Grayson, who champions himself as the “only constitutional conservative” in the race.

• Anti-gay U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah who also does not support same-sex marriage based on religious beliefs.

• David Perdue, former CEO of Dollar General and cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue, and a believer in the “sanctity of marriage.”

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