Georgia Supreme Court reinstates marriage amendment

ATLANTA (BP)--The Georgia Supreme Court July 6 reinstated that state's constitutional marriage amendment, unanimously ruling that it does not -- as a lower court had ruled -- violate the state constitution.

The short six-page decision comes just weeks after a Georgia trial court judge said the amendment violated the state constitution's single-subject clause, which prevents an amendment from dealing with more than one issue. But the court disagreed.

The amendment, passed in 2004 by 76 percent of voters, bans both "gay marriage" and Vermont-style civil unions. Georgia is one of 20 states to have adopted a marriage amendment.

"[C]ontrary to the trial court's ruling," Justice Robert Benham wrote for the court, the second half of the amendment "does not address a different objective than that of the amendment as a whole and does not render the amendment violative of the multiple-subject prohibition [of the Georgia Constitution]."

The amendment's objective, the court said, is to reserve "marriage and its attendant benefits to unions of man and woman."

The first half of the amendment states, in part: "Marriages between persons of the same sex are prohibited in this state." The second half states, in part: "No union between persons of the same sex shall be recognized by this state as entitled to the benefits of marriage."

In filing the lawsuit, the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal -- a homosexual activist legal group -- had argued that the amendment violated the Georgia Constitution. Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican, had threatened to call a special session of the legislature this year to deal with the issue if the Georgia Supreme Court didn't reinstate the amendment.

Pro-family groups applauded the decision. The Alliance Defense Fund filed a brief supporting the amendment on behalf of the Georgia Baptist Convention and several state lawmakers.

“When the courts respect sound public policy decisions made by the people and their elected representatives, such as upholding the sanctity of marriage, freedom reigns,” ADF attorney Mike Johnson said in a statement. “Today’s victory is one for the citizens who showed up at the ballot box to take a stand on this important public policy issue.”

Anita L. Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, which filed a brief supporting the amendment on behalf of the Christian Coalition of Georgia, said voters "spoke loudly and clearly" in favor of traditional marriage.

"When groups pushing the homosexual agenda fail to win at the ballot box, they try to undermine democracy by using the courts to eliminate the voice of the people," she said. "Aggressive use of the courts to undermine marriage has backfired on the same-sex marriage movement. Recent efforts to challenge constitutional amendments will also backfire."

The decision was 6-0. One of the seven judges did not participate in the case.

The Georgia lawsuit is similar to a case from Louisiana more than a year ago. Louisiana voters passed their amendment in 2004 with 78 percent of the vote, but homosexual and liberal activists filed suit, arguing it violated the Louisiana Constitution's single-subject rule. A lower court judge agreed and struck it down, but the Louisiana Supreme Court reinstated the amendment in a January 2005 decision.


For more information about the national debate over "gay marriage," visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage

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