Top Georgia court official: Judges ‘are following the law’ on gay marriages

Monet Brewerton breaks down as she and her bride-to-be Sarah Ann Palmer fill out their marriage application. Greg Bluestein/AJC Photo.

Monet Brewerton breaks down as she and her bride-to-be Sarah Ann Palmer fill out their marriage application. Greg Bluestein/AJC Photo.

Georgia leaders vowed months ago that the state would not become another Alabama when it came to same-sex marriage. And they stuck to that promise as dozens, if not hundreds, of gay couples tied the knot after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision.

Chase Daughtrey, a Cook County judge and the head of the Council of Probate Courts, reports that there were no problems in any of the 159 county courts his council oversees since the High Court’s decision on Friday. Court officials had new forms replacing the words “bride” and “groom” with “Applicant 1″ and “Applicant 2″ at the ready. And leaders in Columbus, Macon, Augusta, Valdosta and Savannah reported the same-sex ceremonies going off without a hitch.

Daughtrey said Monday afternoon that “all appears to be good and judges are following the law.” In short, there have been no acts of defiance reported in Georgia.

“Judges that have had applications for marriage licenses by same sex couples, to my knowledge, have complied with the ruling and issued the license,” he said. “Most counties should have the application form uploaded into their case management system by now, but those counties that do not were sent a pdf file containing the new application and can issue it the old fashion way with a pen, if needed.”

Arielle Cronig (L) and Elaine Cleary embrace outside of the U.S. Supreme Court after the ruling in favor of same-sex marriage on Friday in Washington. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Arielle Cronig (L) and Elaine Cleary embrace outside of the U.S. Supreme Court after the ruling in favor of same-sex marriage on Friday in Washington. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Both Gov. Nathan Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens sent out statements within a few hours of the ruling expressing disappointment with the court’s judgment but making clear the state would comply with its decision.

It was a contrast from the delays that hobbled the response in Louisiana and Mississippi, where local officials have yet to enforce the court’s order. Alabama’s chief judge suggested he would resist the ruling, and two counties there have opted out of the marriage business.

Still, expect to see plenty more from Georgia conservatives on this front. Here’s a snippet from Sunday’s front-page piece about the political ramifications of the decision:

Some predict a Roe v. Wade scenario — after the Supreme Court’s still-standing but constantly challenged 1973 abortion ruling — in which a controversial decision develops into a prolonged legal and political fight.

“There’s going to be a flurry of religious liberty measures that are a reaction to this decision,” said state Sen. Josh McKoon, a Columbus Republican who sponsored SB 129 and sides with opponents of gay marriage.

McKoon and others also expect legislation that would dramatically change how marriage licenses are issued in Georgia. One proposal making the rounds would enable a religious or secular leader to issue a marriage certificate that can then be recorded with a probate judge. In that way, no government official is actually issuing a license.

“That would free government officials of the responsibility of making that decision,” McKoon said. “And it gets the government totally out of the marriage business.”

(Note: A version of this story ran earlier today in the Morning Jolt.)


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