An Atlanta same-sex couple together eight years just became the first to sue the state of Georgia for the right to marry in what is being called a “massive” class-action lawsuit. Michael Bishop and Shane Thomas, who together are raising a family of a boy, 4, and a girl, 3, say they are doing it to protect their family.
“We live our lives very privately and for us to move into the spotlight for this purpose took a lot of thought and deliberation,” Bishop, himself an attorney, told WGCL-TV. “We are proud Georgians, this is where we want to live. We want to have protection under the law of our family and our relationship here in our home state. That is absolutely important to us.”
The couple attempted to obtain a marriage license twelve days ago but were denied.
“With that marriage license denial to Bishop and Thomas this month, in coordination with the actions of two other same-sex couples and one widowed lesbian, a chain reaction started which will lead to the April 22 filing of a massive class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Northern Georgia,” the Georgia Voice reports.
While the two talked about getting married in another state where same-sex marriage is legal, they ultimately decided against doing so.
“We have the utmost respect for people that do that,” Bishop says, “But at the same time, this is where we live, this is our state, this is our home, this is where our family is. It’s important to us to have the integrity of having our marriage recognized where we live.”
There were also practical aspects to consider. When the family travels, they have to bring the adoption papers with them.
“They don’t exactly look like us so if you’re driving through south Georgia and you get pulled over by somebody who doesn’t like the way you like, there’s no telling how they might interpret that,” Thomas says. “So we have to be cautious about where we stop or get gas. We think about all of that stuff.”
“When you hold that baby in your arms and you realize you’re a parent and that you have to protect that child, it really comes down to what we feel like are equal rights for us as parents,” Thomas says. “And we should have those rights as parents.”
All the recent marriage lawsuits decided after the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling have ruled in favor of equality, based on the Fourteenth Amendment. This case will also argue Fourteenth Amendment protections, that Georgia’s bans on same-sex marriage “violate federal substantive due process guarantees, including the fundamental right to marry, and liberty interests.”
There are now just four states that do not allow same-sex couple to marry in which there are no lawsuits suing for the freedom to marry.
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