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|Georgia Marriage Amendment - opponents file law suit |
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 09/16/04
Opponents of a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in Georgia filed a lawsuit Thursday in Fulton County Superior Court in an attempt to stop the Nov. 2 vote.
The Georgia ACLU, Lambda Legal and several plaintiffs, including State Rep. Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta) and state Sen. David Adelman (D-Decatur), contend the ballot question is "deceptive" because the proposed amendment goes further than simply banning same-sex marriage.
The lawsuit also claims the amendment violates the state Constitution because it covers several issues in addition to gay marriage, such as civil unions and the jurisdiction of Georgia courts. Several groups opposing the amendment claim it could threaten domestic partnerships, hospital visitation rights, medical and financial powers of attorney, and parental rights.
"This lawsuit is about protecting the voters of Georgia and protecting the sanctity of the ballot," said Beth Littrell, attorney for the Georgia American Civil Liberties Union.
Littrell and lawyers from Lambda Legal, a national organization representing the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, said they oppose the idea of a gay marriage ban, but emphasized the lawsuit focused solely on the legal aspects of the constitutional amendment and ballot question.
Sadie Fields, chairman of the state Christian Coalition, called the lawsuit "unfortunate" and "ill-advised." Despite months of controversy, Fields successfully lobbied the state Legislature last spring to pass the proposed amendment.
"The elected representatives of the people of Georgia have seen it fit to give the people a voice and a vote at the ballot box," Fields said. "That is the proper form of redress. To litigate it through the courts is circumventing the form of government that our founders gave us."
Calling the issue of gay marriage a "tsunami" for many voters, Fields said she hoped Georgia's courts would follow the example of the judiciary in Louisiana and allow the vote to proceed. The Louisiana Supreme Court recently refused to hear lawsuits seeking to stop a Sept. 18 vote on a similar constitutional amendment on gay marriage.
Opponents of Georgia's proposed gay marriage ban say voters may be less likely to vote "yes" if they are aware of the amendment's total impact.
"As Georgians realize that a beloved family member or respected co-worker is gay, they want want to see some sort of legal protection for that person," said state Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates), who is gay. "Maybe not marriage, but some sort of legal arrangement to protect their partners, their children, their families."
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