Georgia lawmakers send constitutional marriage ban to voters

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April 02 2004 12:00 AM ET

Georgia voters will decide this fall whether to amend the state constitution to ban equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples, even if the same-sex unions are performed in other states. The Georgia house approved the ban 122-52 on Wednesday. Same-sex marriage already is illegal in Georgia, but the matter is not addressed in its constitution. Supporters of the amendment said current law was not enough to prevent a judge from allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. "We cannot let judges in Boston or officials in San Francisco define marriage for the people of Georgia," said Republican representative Bill Hembree, the amendment's sponsor, referring to other hot spots in the national debate over same-sex marriage.

The proposed amendment was narrowly defeated by the Democratic-controlled house in February after breezing through the Republican-controlled senate earlier this year. In February nearly all black lawmakers opposed the amendment, comparing the gay rights debate to the civil rights struggle. But after heavy lobbying from black clergymen and other social conservatives, several of those who had been opponents voted yes Wednesday, giving the amendment the needed two-thirds majority. One opponent of the measure called Wednesday's yes votes "unacceptable.... This limits the freedom of people! That's unacceptable for a member of the minority caucus to be limiting freedom of another minority," said Rep. Ron Sailor, a minister from Decatur.

Elsewhere, a proposed amendment to the Missouri constitution banning same-sex marriage won initial house approval.

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