Lambda Legal Adds South Georgia Couple to Marriage Lawsuit

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October 3, 2014

"Beth and Krista’s story demonstrates that Georgia’s discriminatory marriage ban impacts same-sex couples and their families across the state.”

(Atlanta) - Today Lambda Legal announced that an additional couple has been added to the federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia challenging Georgia’s discriminatory marriage ban.  Beth and Krista Wurz of Brunswick join three couples, Christopher Inniss and Shelton Stroman of Snellville, Rayshawn Chandler and Avery Chandler of Jonesboro, Michael Bishop and Shane Thomas of Atlanta, and one widow, Jennifer Sisson of Decatur.

Beth, 41, and Krista, 39, were married in October 2010 in New Hampshire and are raising seven children, including five placed with them through the foster care system, in their Brunswick home.  Beth is an Associate English professor at College of Coastal Georgia and Krista, an Air Force veteran, is a special education teacher. Since their marriage is not recognized in Georgia, Krista is denied health coverage through Beth’s job, as are some of their children. Because of the marriage ban, they also have been denied the ability to adopt their children jointly, meaning they live in constant worry about traveling with the children or caring for them in emergencies since they are not both recognized as the children’s legal parents.

“Because the state of Georgia does not recognize our marriage, it divides our family down the middle. My wife and all of our seven children should be able to have the same access to health care coverage as my colleagues and their families,” Beth Wurz, Lambda Legal plaintiff said.

“State employees like Beth should have the same access to health care coverage for their spouses as their colleagues. Beth and Krista’s story demonstrates that Georgia’s discriminatory marriage ban impacts same-sex couples and their families across the state, sending daily messages that their families are not worthy of dignity and respect," said Beth Littrell, Senior Attorney based in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office.

Along with Beth and Krista, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are: Chris Inniss, 39, and Shelton Stroman, 41, who have been together for 13 years and are raising their son, Jonathan, who is 9; Rayshawn Chandler, 29, and Avery Chandler, 30, Atlanta Police Department police officers who have been together for almost three years; Michael Bishop, 50, and Shane Thomas, 44, together for seven years and the parents of  two children; and Jennifer Sisson, 34, whose wife, Pamela Drenner, died on March 1 at age 49. Jennifer and Pam were married in New York in 2013. Despite being legally married, the State of Georgia has refused to list Jennifer as Pam’s wife on Pam’s death certificate.

In the lawsuit, Lambda Legal, joined by pro bono co-counsel from Bryan Cave and White & Case, argues that Georgia’s marriage ban unfairly discriminates against same-sex couples and sends a purposeful message that lesbians, gay men, and their children are second-class citizens who are undeserving of the legal sanction, respect, protections, and support that different-sex couples and their families are able to enjoy through marriage.

“On behalf of everyone at Georgia Equality, we want to thank Beth and Krista for joining the lawsuit.  While it has long been a best business practice to extend benefits to the spouses and partners of same-sex couples, unfortunately the State of Georgia does not treat their LGBT employees with that same sense of fairness.  By joining this lawsuit, they are giving voice to the tens of thousands of state employees who are denied the benefits and protections that other married co-workers enjoy,” said Jeff Graham, Georgia Equality Executive Director.

For more on the case, Inniss v. Aderhold, click on the case name.

Lambda Legal attorneys Tara Borelli, Beth Littrell, Gregory Nevins, and Susan Sommer are handling the case, joined by Georgia co-counsel William V. Custer of Bryan Cave LLP and David P. Draigh of White & Case LLP.


Contact Info

Lambda Legal Contact: Jonathan Adams Cell: 646-752-3251; Email: jadams@lambdalegal.org