The South is one of those places that some of us don’t think will ever achieve real, lasting social justice markers, but just this week a state judge struck down the gay marriage ban in a state well below the Mason Dixon Line—Louisiana. I share this to say that change happens in places we least expect when regular people stand up and demand their constitutionally guaranteed civil rights. That is what Sonny and Jazzie Jones-Smith did earlier this year.
On May 1 of this year, this black lesbian couple approached the counter of the county clerk’s office in Henry County, Georgia, even though they knew they would be denied a marriage license to celebrate their years of commitment to each other. They knew that no matter how long they had been together—no matter how deep their love for each other—they would not be able to receive a marriage license because of laws in Georgia that restrict marriage to different-sex couples and deny all respect to same-sex couples legally married in other states.
In sharing their story with Freedom to Marry, Jazzie said:
“For us, marriage is important because it’s the outward symbolization to the world of our love. It opens doors for two people to receive honor as a unit and to be respected as a couple. To be able to have this freedom as a human being in a state where we live, pay taxes, work, play, build homes, and raise families. It shouldn’t even be a question or a legal issue: Marriage should be a right for all Americans.”
The couple ended up legally marrying in Washington, D.C., however, they took a stand in their home state of Georgia because they knew how important it was to stand before the county clerk and provoke this denial—to demonstrate what it looks like when marriage discrimination is enforced and make the case that it’s time for marriage in Georgia, across the South, and beyond.