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Ga. to Appeal Gay Marriage Ban Ruling
By SHANNON McCAFFREY, Associated Press Writer
Wed May 17, 5:03 PM ET
Georgia will appeal a judge's ruling that struck down its voter-approved ban on gay marriage, and the governor said Wednesday he will call a special legislative session if the state Supreme Court doesn't rule on the issue soon.
"I think the people spoke overwhelmingly. I think the people of Georgia knew exactly what they were voting for," Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue said.
The constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage was approved by 76 percent of the state's voters in November 2004. On Tuesday, however, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Constance C. Russell ruled the measure violated the Georgia Constitution's single-subject rules for ballot questions.
The ballot measure addressed issues other than gay marriage, including civil unions and the power of Georgia courts to rule on disputes arising from same-sex relationships.
Perdue said he would call a special session of the Legislature to propose another constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage if the high court did not rule by Aug. 7. The deadline for the measure to be printed on ballots for the November general election would be Aug. 14, he said.
A special session could cost taxpayers between $30,000 and $40,000 a day and could last at least a week.
State Attrney General Thurbert Baker said Russell's opinion was "wrongfully decided" and he would ask for an expedited ruling in the state's appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court.
He also pointed out that a Georgia law prohibiting same-sex marriage is still on the books, and that only the constitutional amendment was struck down.
The plaintiffs, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda, believe the judge's ruling will be upheld.
"All these guys are running for election. And once again they're going to try to use gays and lesbians as their platform," said Chuck Bowen, director of Georgia Equality, the state's largest gay-advocacy organization. "They're using us to shield the real issues facing the state."
Conservatives turned out in large numbers to cast ballots for the same-sex ban in 2004. If a similar measure is on the November ballot, it would almost certainly boost Perdue's re-election campaign, even though the two Democrats vying to oppose him both said they supported the gay marriage amendment.
"They can use it to try to fire up the conservative base in the state and get them out to vote," said University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock.
Associated Press Writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this report.
On the Net:
Judge voids Georgia gay marriage ban
Tue May 16, 9:56 PM ET
A Georgia judge on Tuesday struck down a ban on same-sex marriage that was approved by voters in 2004, saying it violated the Southern state's constitution.
Judge Constance Russell of Fulton County Superior Court ruled that the measure violates the state's "single-subject rule" as it asked voters to decide on multiple issues in one amendment, said Jack Senterfitt, an attorney with gay rights group Lambda Legal Defense.
"We believe this is a victory for all Georgia voters, no matter your beliefs on the underlying issue," said Senterfitt, whose group had challenged the ban along with the state arm of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Georgia was one of several states where voters solidly backed state constitutional amendments in 2004 to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue voiced disappointment in the ruling and said he was weighing his options to protect the will of the people.
"This decision highlights the effect activist judges can have on our system of governance," Perdue, a Republican seeking re-election this year, said in a statement. Perdue noted that 76 percent voted in support of the constitutional amendment two years ago.
(Additional reporting by Jim Loney in Miami)
The New York Times
May 17, 2006
Same-Sex Marriage Amendment Is Struck Down by Georgia Judge
By SHAILA DEWAN
ATLANTA, May 16 — A state amendment banning same-sex marriage was struck down Tuesday by a judge who upheld the voters' right to limit marriage to heterosexual couples but cited procedural flaws in the wording of the amendment, which was approved by more than three-quarters of voters.
The decision is one of the first successful challenges to a ban on same-sex marriage, one of a spate of similar amendments passed in 11 states in November 2004, said Jack Senterfitt, a senior staff lawyer in the Southern regional office of Lambda Legal, a national gay rights group.
Lambda Legal filed the suit along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. Besides Georgia, 18 states have such laws, a spokeswoman for Lambda Legal said.
The Georgia amendment defined marriage as between a man and a woman, banned same-sex civil unions and said that same-sex unions performed in other states would not be recognized. The judge, Constance C. Russell of Fulton County Superior Court, ruled that the amendment violated Georgia's single-subject rule, which limits each amendment put before voters to one topic.
"People who believe marriages between men and women should have a unique and privileged place in our society may also believe that same-sex relationships should have some place, although not marriage," the judge wrote. "The single-subject rule protects the right of those people to hold both views and reflect both judgments by their vote."
Mr. Senterfitt said he expected the ruling to be appealed.