Protesters gather in opposition to Georgia marriage amendment

BY admin

January 31 2004 1:00 AM ET

Hundreds of gay men and lesbians rallied at the Georgia capitol on Friday to fight a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. The protesters wrote notes to senators and representatives and called on the legislature not to change the state constitution. Gay marriage is already illegal in Georgia, but the matter isn't addressed in the constitution. "We will not stand by and watch this happen," said Rep. Karla Lea Drenner, the legislature's only openly gay member. "Discrimination of any sort is empirically and morally wrong."

The sponsor of the amendment, which hasn't come up for a vote in either chamber, said the rally didn't change his position. Sen. Mike Crotts (R-Atlanta) pointed out that two thirds of lawmakers would have to approve the measure and then voters would have the final say this November on changing the constitution. "At least they're getting a referendum that would give them a shot," he said.

But gay rights supporters promise a long fight over the amendment. The president of Georgia Log Cabin Republicans, a gay conservative group, joined the rally and pleaded with lawmakers to focus on legislation other than a populist issue like gay marriage. "Writing discrimination into our state constitution is unacceptable," Marc Yeager said. "Today our state faces much bigger issues, like budget cuts."

Protesters also heard from the sole Democrat running for the U.S. Senate from Georgia this fall, seeking the seat being vacated by Democratic senator Zell Miller. Mary Squires, currently a state senator from Norcross, conceded that her opposition to the gay marriage amendment would cost her some votes. "I understand the comments I make to you will be used against me in the next election. I don't care. This must end," she said.

The loudest applause, though, went to an openly gay 15-year-old boy who gave a rousing speech in opposition to the amendment. "God made me gay, and I should be proud, even though some people dislike me for it," said Gregory Casajuana. "Gays are everywhere, and they deserve the same rights as everyone else."

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