Lambda Legal responds to Olens motion to dismiss Georgia marriage equality suit

Lambda Legal has filed its response to Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens’ motion to dismiss Inniss v. Aderhold, the federal class action lawsuit attempting to strike down the state’s 2004 same-sex marriage ban. Olens filed the motion to dismiss on behalf of state registrar Deborah Aderhold, one of the three defendants in the case, in late July. Lambda Legal filed their opposition brief on Sept. 5.

Lambda Legal senior attorney Tara Borelli. (photo courtesy Lambda Legal)
Lambda Legal senior attorney Tara Borelli. (photo courtesy Lambda Legal)

Here are some notable passages from the response:

  • “The Motion concedes that the ‘love that Plaintiffs articulate for their partners and their children is clear, as are their contributions to our society’ (ECF-29-1 at 8). The State effectively acknowledges that Plaintiffs and their children, although otherwise ‘equal,’ have been condemned by the State’s actions to membership in an inferior tier of citizenry. Stripped of rhetoric, the State’s Motion enunciates no interest for this condemnation other than moral disapproval of an individual’s choice to commit her or his life to a person of the same sex. And at the same time, the State disrespects other states’ decisions to allow couples of the same sex to marry.”
  • “The State urges this Court to ignore Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803), and defer to the ‘people of Georgia’ who imposed the Marriage Bans in the first place (ECF-29-1 at 2-3). The argument is as familiar as it is futile.”
  • “Our courts did not wait for the democratic process to undo racial segregation. Our courts did not abandon the equal rights of women to politicians or polls. Our courts intervened to eliminate state bans on inter-racial marriage. And the Supreme Court rejected the State’s argument for deference when invalidating DOMA in Windsor.”
  • “Our democracy functions and prevails because we promise liberty and equality for all. Our judiciary exists to enforce that promise. Plaintiffs turn to this Court to vindicate their families’ rights to liberty and equality.”
  • “In the final analysis, the State’s position is that a majoritarian preference in 2004 to exclude same-sex Georgia couples and their children from the rights and dignity of marriage is immune from judicial review. But ‘[a] citizen’s constitutional rights can hardly be infringed simply because a majority of the people choose that it be.’ Lucas v. Forty-Fourth Gen. Assembly of Colo., 377 U.S. 713, 736-37 (1964). Plaintiffs allege claims for relief that already have prevailed on the merits in courts around the nation. They are entitled to have their claims heard here. For the foregoing reasons, the Court should deny the State’s Motion to Dismiss.”

Next, the attorney general has the right to file a reply brief. It is not clear yet whether there will be oral arguments on Lambda Legal’s latest filing.

A judge fined Olens’ office $10,000 last week for failing to turn over evidence in a whistleblower lawsuit involving the state ethics commission and Gov. Nathan Deal’s office.

Olens’ Democratic opponent Greg Hecht came out strongly in support of marriage equality and has sworn to drop the state’s defense of the marriage equality ban should he assume office. Hecht also heavily criticized Olens over his decision to defend the ban. Olens and Hecht will face off in the Nov. 4 general election.

Beth Wurz, 41, and her wife Krista Wurz, 39, were recently added as plaintiffs in the suit.

A full copy of Lambda Legal’s response is available below to view and/or download.