Back in April, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn Georgia’s constitutional amendment prohibiting same sex marriage. The state, and specifically Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, has until July 21st to respond to the suit.
Pro-equality groups know this, and have begun pressuring Olens to refuse to defend the amendment, which would lead to a quick victory in the courts. That’s the method US Attorney General Eric Holder recommended back in February as the way to bring a speedy end to the debate over marriage equality.
So it’s no surprise that pro LGBT rights group Georgia Equality started a petition urging Olens to drop his defense of the amendment banning gay marriage. There is even an appeal to Olens’ religious faith as a reason to stand down from the suit.
That’s the wrong approach.
Sam Olens took an oath of office to uphold the United States and Georgia Constitutions. To violate that oath because of public opinion that increasingly favors marriage equality, or because the US Attorney General said it would be OK to ignore constitutional law, is the wrong answer.
For those wishing to overturn the amendment, that leaves two options. The first is a victory in court. That, of course, is the goal of the current Federal lawsuit. Longer term, it’s an issue that will likely be decided by the United States Supreme Court.
The other option lies within the legislature.
Towards the end of the 2014 session, Representative Sam Teasley and Senator Josh McKoon introduced versions of the Preservation of Religious Freedom Act. Had a final version of the bills passed, individuals who had religious reasons to claim an objection to a state law could have their day in court. The bills didn’t pass, mainly because of fears that passage of the law would provide a legal excuse for those with religious beliefs to discriminate against gay marriage.
While a court decision on something as volatile as same sex marriage brings a quick end to a divisive issue, it leaves the losing side feeling cheated. The easiest example of this is the 1973 decision on Roe v. Wade. I can’t think of anything more divisive than that during my lifetime, unless it was the draft.
Finding agreement on a law that would preserve the right of the faith based community to observe their religious beliefs while respecting the desire of those in the LGBT community not to be discriminated against should be the goal. After the Preservation of Religious Freedom Act failed earlier this year, there were pledges on both sides to work together to find that common ground.
This is a goal that both the faith-based community and the LGBT community should support.