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Georgia Couples Join Challengers to Same-Sex Marriage Ban

April 22 (Bloomberg) -- Georgia became the latest U.S. state where same-sex couples are challenging laws that ban gay marriages and prohibit the recognition of such weddings legally performed elsewhere.

Three gay couples today asked a federal court in Atlanta to invalidate the laws and order officials in Georgia’s Fulton and Gwinnett counties to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In the same complaint, a widow who was married in New York asked to be listed on her late wife’s death certificate.

A wave of litigation challenging state same-sex marriage bans was unleashed by a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June striking down a measure that limited federal recognition to marriages between a man and a woman. Since then, courts in several states have thrown out local prohibitions on gay marriage.

“The right to marry the unique person of one’s choice and to direct the course of one’s life in this intimate realm without undue government restriction is one of the fundamental liberty interests protected for all,” according to the Georgia plaintiffs, who are seeking to sue on behalf of all state residents in similar circumstances.

Their suit follows similar litigation in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas. Same-sex marriage has been deemed legal in 21 states plus the District of Columbia. Rulings legalizing gay marriage in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia and Michigan have been put on hold pending the outcome of appeals.

Stop Short

While almost all these cases were filed after the Supreme Court’s June decision, gay marriage opponents have argued the high court stopped short of directing states to follow suit.

A Georgia statute says no marriage between people of the same gender will be recognized in the state, according to the complaint. Voters enacted a constitutional ban in 2004.

Lauren Kane, a spokeswoman for Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, didn’t immediately respond to a voice-mail message seeking comment on the lawsuit. Fulton County Manager Dwight Ferrell also didn’t immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment. Atlanta, Georgia’s biggest city, is the Fulton County seat.

Joe Sorenson, a spokesman for adjacent Gwinnett County, declined to comment, saying officials there haven’t had a chance to “really take a look at the suit.”

The case is Inniss v. Aderhold, 14-cv-1180, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta).

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Harris in federal court in Chicago at aharris16@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net Andrew Dunn, Fred Strasser

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