Ty­ing the knot

At­lanta gay cou­ples share their wed­ding sto­ries, top 6 same-sex wed­ding des­ti­na­tions and 5 unique spots to pop the big ques­tion

GA Voice - - Front Page - By JEFF CLEGHORN Jeff Cleghorn prac­tices fam­ily law with Kitchens New Cleghorn LLC. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit www.kn­claw­firm.com

The LGBT rights move­ment’s D-Day seems to be on the hori­zon, as the U.S. Supreme Court is ex­pected to is­sue a de­fin­i­tive opin­ion on same-sex mar­riage this June. Not sur­pris­ingly, many legal ques­tions will re­main, no mat­ter which way the court rules.

The jus­tices are con­sid­er­ing two spe­cific is­sues: whether states are re­quired to rec­og­nize same-sex mar­riages per­formed in other states, and whether states are re­quired to is­sue mar­riage li­censes to same-sex cou­ples.

There are, gen­er­ally, three pos­si­ble out­comes. The best-case sce­nario would be for the court to rule that all states must both is­sue mar­riage li­censes and rec­og­nize mar­riages from other states, as all states cur­rently do for dif­fer­ent-sex cou­ples. Al­ter­na­tively, the court could rule that all states are re­quired to rec­og­nize mar­riages per­formed in other states, but are not oth­er­wise re­quired to is­sue li­censes to their own state’s same-sex cou­ples.

A third pos­si­bil­ity is that the Court could rule there is no con­sti­tu­tional right for same­sex cou­ples to marry. I don’t know of any se­ri­ous court ob­server who be­lieves op­tion three is likely, and such a rul­ing would cre­ate gen­uine chaos in our legal sys­tem.

How­ever, all of th­ese op­tions will leave a de­gree of un­cer­tainty in states like Ge­or­gia, where a law­suit filed by Lambda Legal seek­ing to nul­lify the state’s con­sti­tu­tional ban on is­su­ing and rec­og­niz­ing same-sex mar­riage li­censes has been put on hold by the fed­eral judge hear­ing the case. Ide­ally, a fa­vor­able Supreme Court opin­ion would guide the fed­eral judge in Lambda’s Ge­or­gia case to quickly is­sue a sim­i­lar, con­sis­tent rul­ing.

Ge­or­gia Pro­bate Court judges (who are the legal author­ity re­spon­si­ble for mar­riage li­censes) would then begin is­su­ing mar­riage li­censes to same-sex cou­ples, and also per­form­ing mar­riages. How­ever, Pro­bate judges in some states (such as Alabama) have found cre­ative ways to avoid is­su­ing mar­riage li­censes to same-sex cou­ples: ar­gu­ing that Pro­bate judges are not bound by fed­eral ju­di­cial rul­ings; re­fus­ing to is­sue mar­riage li­censes to any­one, gay or straight; or is­su­ing mar­riage li­censes on pa­per, but re­fus­ing to per­form cer­e­monies for same-sex cou­ples. Th­ese dis­crim­i­na­tory judges could also be em­pow­ered by so-called “re­li­gious lib­erty” bills, which may al­low them to refuse their du­ties due to their “sin­cerely held re­li­gious be­liefs.”

An­other is­sue of huge con­se­quence to all mar­ried cou­ples is the “mar­i­tal pre­sump­tion of parent­age” when a child is born dur­ing a mar­riage. Un­der ex­ist­ing Ge­or­gia law, mar­ried par­ents are pre­sumed to be the legal par­ents of the baby. Will the Ge­or­gia’s Vi­tal Records depart­ment au­to­mat­i­cally is­sue birth cer­tifi­cates with both dads or both moms listed as a par­ent?

The Ge­or­gia leg­is­la­ture would also need to change some statu­tory lan­guage of ex­ist­ing laws to en­sure the def­i­ni­tion of “spouse” uses gen­der-neu­tral lan­guage. Ge­or­gia’s Depart­ment of Driver Ser­vices should then begin al­low­ing name changes on driver’s li- censes for all mar­ried cou­ples who chose to change their name dur­ing their mar­riage.

In the pri­vate sec­tor, Ge­or­gia em­ploy­ers should then al­low de­pen­dent health in­sur­ance cov­er­age for spouses of their LGBT em­ploy­ees.

At­lanta-area judges have been pro­gres­sive enough to grant sec­ond-par­ent adop­tions to same-sex cou­ples for many years. Will mar­riage equal­ity give LGBT Ge­or­gians ac­cess to the state’s step-par­ent adop­tion statute? If so, will At­lanta-area judges con­tinue to grant sec­ond-par­ent adop­tions, or will those judges re­quire same-sex cou­ples to adopt only af­ter mar­riage? Should mar­ried LGBT Ge­or­gia cou­ples who pre­vi­ously adopted via the “sec­ond par­ent” ap­proach, then also do a step-par­ent adop­tion just to be safe?

There are no sim­ple an­swers. The ques­tion is not only whether we win at the U.S. Supreme Court, but how we win. Although there is ev­ery good rea­son to be hope­ful and op­ti­mistic, the re­al­ity is that we will just have to wait and see.

Page 35Photo by Sarah Wil­liams, Val and Sarah

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