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Wednesday, April 3, 2013 - 3:43am

Ga. Marriage Law Susceptible To Challenge

U.S. Supreme Court rulings in two same sex marriage cases might set the stage for a separate challenge to Georgia's state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and one expert thinks the legal dominoes from last week’s oral arguments could fall quickly.

Most legal experts agree that neither California’s Proposition 8 case nor the challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act is likely to affect Georgia directly. However, Mercer University law professor Scott Titshaw thinks there might be an indirect effect.

Rulings expected in June could raise the level of protection that sexual minorities, like racial minorities, receive from judges, Titshaw said. Laws that limit the rights of gays would therefore be subjected to a more stringent constitutional test, "and in the future, I imagine that someone would file a lawsuit claiming that their marriage should be recognized in the state of Georgia and bring a federal challenge under that test," he said.

If that scenario plays out, Georgia could be defending its own marriage law before the Supreme Court a couple of years, Titshaw said, and Georgia's amendment would be particularly susceptible because it singles out gays in particular.

"Other constitutional amendments in other states, for instance, prohibit polygamy by defining marriage in some particular way. All the Georgia constitutional amendment does, really, is define what marriage isn't with regard to same-sex couples," Titshaw said, and judges might therefore be more likely to strike down Georgia's amendment as discriminatory.