Georgia families deliver petitions urging attorney general not to defend marriage ban

Several same-sex couples and their families, led by staff members from Georgia Equality, delivered 3,080 signed petitions to a representative from Attorney General Sam Olens’ office Monday morning urging him to refuse to defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Olens has until the end of the day to announce whether the state will defend the ban in the federal class action lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal April 22 attempting to challenge it.

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The group makes their way down Washington Street to deliver petitions to Olens’ office.

The group was not allowed past the security checkpoint in the lobby of the building, instead delivering the petitions to a staff member who came downstairs from Olens’ office.

“This morning we felt it was really important to put a face on those petitions,” Georgia Equality executive director Jeff Graham said. “It’s one thing to have a signature, it’s one thing to have numbers, but it’s another thing to actually have people show up and to be able to put real stories behind the passion and the meaning of those petitions.”

Val Jameson-Smith and her wife Deresia Jameson-Smith brought their daughter Joy to take part in the action. The couple were married in Washington, D.C.


A young boy hands petitions to a representative from Olens' office.
A young boy hands petitions to a representative from Olens’ office.

“I’m a southern girl. I’ve lived in the south the majority of my life and it’s unfortunate that I had to go somewhere else to be married,” Val said. “We really support marriage equality and we’re fighting desperately to have our marriage recognized in the state of Georgia as well as giving everyone else the right to marry.”

Their young daughter Joy echoed her moms’ sentiments, saying, “Their relationship will be complete since we live here. I feel it’s kind of weird that they got married in DC but we live in Georgia. I feel like it’s kind of wrong.”

In February, Olens said it is “lawless” not to defend the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in response to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s public statement that state attorneys general are not required to defend same-sex marriage bans if they believe they are unconstitutional. When the lawsuit was announced, Olens’ spokesperson released a statement saying, “The Attorney General will fulfill his constitutional obligation to                                                                                                   defend Georgia law.”

A security guard helps Olens' rep gather up the 3,080 petitions.
A security guard helps Olens’ rep gather up the 3,080 petitions.

Many federal judges have ruled state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional in the year following the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down a major portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Utah officials defending the ban have said they will appeal their case directly to the Supreme Court. U.S. Attorney General Holder told ABC News that if the Supreme Court agrees to hear any marriage equality cases, the Justice Department will file a brief that “will be in support of same-sex marriage.”

Attorneys general in Kentucky, Nevada, Virginia, California and Pennsylvania said they would not defend bans on same-sex marriage in their states. | @patricksaunders