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Georgia's gay marriage ban challenged in federal lawsuit filed by three couples and a widow

Lead plaintiff Christopher Inniss: 'Marriage is the only way to ensure that we are treated as the family that we are'
Lead Plaintiffs Christopher_Inniss and Shelton_Stroman
Photo: Lambda Legal

A federal lawsuit was filed on Tuesday (22 April) by three same-sex couples and a widow challenging the state of Georgia's ban on gay marriage.

The plaintiffs on the case are: Christopher Inniss and Shelton Stroman of Snellville; Rayshawn Chandler and Avery Chandler of Jonesboro; Michael Bishop and Shane Thomas of Atlanta; and Jennifer Sisson of Decatur.

Inniss, veterinarian and pet resort owner, said in a statement released by Lambda Legal that he and Stroman have been together 13 years, own a home and a business together and are raising a son.

'We have done everything we can to protect and take responsibility for our family but marriage is the only way to ensure that we are treated as the family that we are,' he said. 'We need the protection that marriage affords.'

Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Tara Borelli said that by not allowing the couples to marry, the state is sending 'a message that their families are not worthy of dignity and respect.'

While three of the couples are seeking to be married in their home state, plaintiff Sisson simply wants to marriage she had with late wife Pamela Drenner recognized in Georgia.

Drenner, died in March at age 49. She and Sisson were married in New York in 2013 but their home state has refused to list Drenner as Sisson's wife on her death certificate.

The lawsuit argues that Georgia's marriage ban, approved by voters in 2004, unfairly discriminates against same-sex couples and sends a purposeful message that lesbians, gay men, and their children are second-class citizens who are undeserving of the legal sanction, respect, protections, and support that different-sex couples and their families are able to enjoy through marriage.

Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham said the filing represents 'a critically important step in the ongoing work toward marriage equality in Georgia.'

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