CUMMING — With a sweeping ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court Friday morning, same-sex couples anywhere in the nation can legally marry, a decision for which the Forsyth County Probate Court had been preparing.
No one had shown up to the court’s office as of Friday afternoon, while couples reportedly lined up in neighboring Fulton and Gwinnett counties.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, immediately enacting legal marriage of any two people in any state, with marriages that were performed in another state being recognized everywhere else.
A memorandum from Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens to all state agencies and department heads stated, “[The Constitution] does not permit bans on same-sex marriage. This mandate requires Georgia to recognize same-sex marriage in the same way it recognizes marriage between a man and a woman.
“Georgia’s local governments are now constitutionally required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, to issue those licenses in the same way and via the same procedures employed for all other applicants, and to recognize same-sex marriages on an equal footing with all other marriages.”
According to Olens, state agencies and employees must treat those who are lawfully married in a similar fashion.
“State agencies and employees should immediately review their current practices related to their agency’s function and benefits and ensure that their practices conform to the current state of the law,” he wrote.
“In addition, to the extent that prior practices impact on-going services or recognition, agencies should establish a process to review any past agency decisions that must be remediated in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling.”
The ruling impacts residents’ ability to marry and receive spousal benefits, such as health insurance and end-of-life decisions, but does not impact private business or statewide equal employment laws or any religious freedom laws.
According to the local probate court, 1,168 marriage applications were submitted last year.
Forsyth County Probate Court Judge Lynwood D. Jordan Jr. said the office that processes marriage licenses has new paperwork ready.
A marriage license application for a same-sex couple in Forsyth County resembles the application for a marriage between a man and a woman, Jordan said, except that it says “Applicant 1” and “Applicant 2” instead of bride and groom.
“I’ve dreaded having a couple come in here who was married in one of the 37 states that did allow it, and then one of them died,” he said. “What would I do?
“In Probate Court, we get controversies with more than one marriage and often the kids or the two groups don’t agree. Because a lot of the times they’ll leave everything to the second marriage. What if that second marriage was same-sex?
“I won’t have to face that now. I was an attorney for 30 years before being a judge for the last 10. As either an attorney or a judge, I don’t want that uncertainty in the law.”