Same-Sex Marriages in Georgia

Georgia has challenged the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage

Gay couple marriage
••• Miryana Slivenska / EyeEm / Getty Images

Same-sex marriages have been legally recognized in Georgia since 2015, due to the Supreme Court ruling that all bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional. At that time, all counties in Georgia were able to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. 

But historically conservative Georgia, there is still much debate over whether the Supreme Court ruling interferes with the state's right to govern its citizens, with religious groups objecting strongly to the letter of the law.

 

Georgia was one of the staunchest opponents of same-sex unions, with only a handful of municipalities recognizing any same-sex marriages prior to the 2015 high court ruling. 

History of Same Sex Marriage in Georgia

Before the June 2015 Supreme Court decision in the Obergefell vs. Hodges case, same-sex unions, including domestic partnerships, were not permitted in most of Georgia. In 2004, some 75 percent of voters supported Georgia Constitutional Amendment 1, which outlawed same-sex marriages: 

"This state shall recognize as marriage only the union of man and woman. Marriages between persons of the same sex are prohibited in this state."

The amendment was challenged and struck down in court in 2006, but the lower-court ruling was overturned by the Georgia Supreme Court. It stood as state law until 2015. 

After the Obgerfell ruling, Georgia's attorney general Sam Olens petitioned the Supreme Court to allow Georgia's ban on same-sex unions to remain intact.

Georgia was one of 15 states to proffer such appeals to Obgerfell. The states contended that the 14th Amendment should allow each state to decide how to define marriage for its citizens. 

The appeal was unsuccessful; the court decided against Olens and Gov. Nathan Deal announced Georgia would abide by the Supreme Court ruling.

 

"The state of Georgia is subject to the laws of the United States, and we will follow them," Deal said at the time. 

Pushback in Georgia Against Same Sex Marriage

Emma Foulkes and Petrina Bloodworth became the first same-sex couple married in Georgia on June 26, 2015. 

The Supreme Court ruling has not gone unchallenged in Georgia, however. In 2016, Gov. Deal vetoed so-called 'religious liberty" House Bill 757 known among its supporters as the Free Exercise Protection Act.

Georgia House Bill 757 sought to offer protections to "faith-based organizations," and allow such groups to deny services to same-sex couples based on religious objections. The law would have even allowed employers to fire workers who did not align with a company's religious beliefs or practices. 

But Deal, a Republican, said the bill was anathema to Georgia's image as a "warm, friendly and loving people." When he vetoed the bill, Deal told reporters, "Our people work side by side without regard to the color of our skin, or the religion we adhere to. We are working to make life better for our families and our communities. That is the character of Georgia. I intend to do my part to keep it that way."

Continued Resistance to Same-Sex Marriage in Georgia

Deal's veto of House Bill 757 earned him the ire of many in his own party.

Several potential Republican challengers signed a pledge to enact some kind of "religious liberty" law if they succeeded Deal as Georgia governor.