Sam Olens on gay marriage: Georgia will respect Supreme Court decision

The attorney general said his legal defense of Georgia's constitutional ban on gay marriage doesn't foreshadow any rearguard action should the high court overturn state bans on same-sex unions this summer. Said Olens:

Olens made his remarks during an appearance before the Atlanta Press Club. Georgia is one of a number of states with bans on same-sex marriage that are being challenged in federal court. All have been on hold since the Supreme Court decided it would address the issue. Arguments are scheduled for next Tuesday.

Religious conservatives and legal scholars alike are predicting that the high court will overturn bans on same-sex unions. Gay marriages have proceeded in several states where the prohibitions have been successfully challenged -- including Alabama.

Earlier this year, when Supreme Court justices refused to put a temporary hold on the issuance of marriage licenses to gay couples, that state's chief justice, Roy Moore, advised local probate judges to refuse to comply.

That won't happen here, Olens said:

But Olens expressed no regrets about his defense of Georgia's constitutional ban, which was approved by voters in 2004, and said he had no discretion in the matter.

"I disagree 100 percent with those state attorney generals who decided they were part of the judicial branch and not the executive branch," said Olens. "I think it's frankly both inconsistent with the Constitution and the laws of the country when state attorneys general want to call balls and strikes."

The attorney skirted questions about his personal views on the debate, but said he had attempted to keep the discussion on a high plane. “In the case of same-sex marriage, I think our office has tried – as best as we can – to show compassion, and to, frankly, limit our discussion to it being solely legal."

On the related, religious liberty front, the attorney general was also asked if was possible to craft legislation that would protect individual religious freedom and yet also forbid discrimination in the marketplace based on someone's religious beliefs.

Olens said this was, in fact, possible. But he wouldn't say more.

As attorney general, Olens has also been a defender of the state’s sunshine laws – particularly when it comes to requiring local governments to obey state open meeting laws. Said Olens to the press club:

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The committee is looking into juvenile justice grants as part of its effort to update the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. We caught up with Teske after the hearing, and the judge said he's been pleasantly surprised with new chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. Said Teske:

On that note, we have a couple of stories on the premium site this week looking at the big picture of criminal justice reform in the South and in Georgia, where conservatives are leading the way.

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The governor had talked for months on the campaign trail about a vast overhaul of the state watchdog agency as part of his re-election platform. He put that plan on hold for a year, amid great criticism from Democrats, as other fixes showed signs of progress.

With the ethics agency now down to four finalists for its top job, Deal said he wants to give the new leader "the opportunity to get their feet on the ground."

As to the expansion of the agency - he once called for more members of the panel's board to be appointed by the judicial branch - he sounded a more skeptical note.

"The expansion of the board members does not necessarily in and of itself speed up the work. Some might argue that it would slow them down. Because most of the work is done by the staff."

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Roberts is the House Transportation Committee chairman who championed the plan to raise nearly $1 billion in new revenue for infrastructure projects. And the planning director gig is newly vacated by Russell McMurry, promoted this year to be the department's leader.

Gov. Nathan Deal said he'll soon announce the new planning director. As to whether it would be a certain Republican politician from Ocilla, he was mum.

"I'm not going to say who it might be," he said.

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The seat was left empty after Brooks resigned this month shortly before pleading guilty to fraud charges in federal court.

Qualifying spans between April 28 and April 30 and voters who aren't registered must do so by May 18 if they want to cast a ballot in this special election.

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Stanley's decision was praised by several Jewish groups, including the Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity, which pronounced itself "pleased" with the news.

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Flame does not say which party he's running in, but backs liberal initiatives such as legalizing marijuana and raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. His platform also includes a ban on "dogs coming into restaurants" and people with feet larger than size 13 walking in public.

Flame had a brief cameo during last year's Georgia U.S. Senate race when it came out that he and Republican David Perdue were Facetime buddies. The rapper also was spotted at Perdue's Election Night victory party.

And yet, in his video, Flame signaled he does not want much to do with the Senate: "F--- the Congress. What are we thinking about? I am Congress. I'm president."

To be fair, that's probably what most presidents believe but don't say aloud.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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