Earlier this year, the Supreme Court announced that it would be hearing four same-sex marriage cases this legislative session, finally issuing a ruling on whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marriage.
“Sometimes when there are big issues that the court considers, it will take a variety of cases in dealing with those questions – there’s maybe a lead case, but there are a series of cases that the court is going to be considering,” Dr. Brett Curry, associate professor of political science, said.
The reason for this is that while the multiple cases may concern the same major issue, the individual cases may deal with one particular aspect of the law not found in the others, Curry said.
“Courts are reactive institutions. They don’t have the ability to just say ‘Here’s what we think about this particular issue,’” Curry said. “The issue has to be presented before them and sometimes an issue or part of a legal issue is presented in one case and [not in] another.”
LGBT of GSU
Georgia Southern University’s Gay-Straight Alliance has held events in the past to promote marriage equality, former GSA president Parrish Turner said. In the fall, the group often hosts mock weddings, where friends or same-sex couples ‘get married’ in the student union in support of the cause.
However, Turner thinks that marriage equality would affect the faculty and staff of GSU more than its students.
“I know many couples that work at Georgia Southern . . . and these are couples that have been together for thirty, forty years,” Turner said. “Some met their freshman year at Georgia Southern and are still together, and for them to be able to marry and have that recognized in Georgia really does make a difference in what kind of rights they have.”
Turner said that while marriage equality is a step in the right direction, people should not think achieving it means that the work is done. In Georgia, it is still legal to fire someone for being gay, and this issue and others like it are viewed by many as more pressing than marriage equality. However, Turner still views it as a step in the right direction.
“Marriage is very much the pretty cause – who doesn’t like wedding dresses and flowers and cakes?” Turner said. “I think it’s going to be a lot more complicated as we continue to go down the line, so I think it makes a difference knowing that it’s at least an option.”
After taking into account the fact that GSU doesn’t offer LGBTQ a specific resource center, as many other universities of the size often do, Dr. Brooks Keel, GSU President, felt that it was a very good issue that should definitely be discussed and taken care.
“You have to look at where we live, you know Georgia is a very conservative state for all kinds of reasons and I’m sure that factors into it,” Keel said.
Marriage equality in the Peach State
Currently, same-sex marriage is legal in 37 of 50 U.S. states. Three of the five states bordering Georgia – Florida, Alabama and South Carolina – have legalized same-sex marriage.
Georgia currently has a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and does not recognize marriages or civil unions from other states. This could change, however, with the court’s ruling, which should be announced by June.
If the Supreme Court does confirm a right to marriage, all states, including Georgia, would likely be required to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples in a matter of weeks, Curry said.
Many legal experts believe it is extremely likely that the court will rule in favor of same-sex marriage, due in part to its decision not to grant a stay for the state of Alabama. Alabama requested permission to ignore the decision of their circuit court judge to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples until the Supreme Court had made its decision.
“Rationally speaking, if you’re a majority of the United States Supreme Court and you’re going to be prepared to uphold the ability of Alabama to define marriage in such a way as to exclude gays and lesbians, you’re probably not going to be in favor of that state going ahead and issuing hundreds or thousands of marriage licenses,” Curry said.
That is why the decision not to grant a stay was telling, he said.