It's been more
than a year since Georgia voters overwhelmingly approved a
constitutional ban on same-sex marriages and months since a
ruling on a challenge to the measure was expected.
But the wait for that ruling continues as the
case is stalled in a lower court. If the ruling comes
soon, gay rights advocates expect it will fuel more
debate on gay rights issues in January, when the legislative
session begins. "Whatever decision the judge reaches
is going to draw the attention of both sides," said
Chuck Bowen, executive director of Georgia Equality.
In January, Fulton County superior court judge
Constance Russell said she would rule on a challenge
to the same-sex marriage ban once the state supreme
court decided whether to allow lawmakers who sponsored the
ban to defend it in court. When the high court
declined that appeal in March, advocates had expected
a decision from Russell within weeks. But months later
the judge has yet to issue her ruling.
"I don't know what the delay is," said state
representative Karla Drenner, Georgia government's
only openly gay politician.
Russell would not comment. A member of her staff
said the judge is managing a busy court docket. When
the judge does issue her ruling, Drenner said the
timing "is a double-edged sword" because it will
instantly frame the debate over any proposal that affects
gays and lesbians.
Drenner helped lead opposition in the
legislature to the ban. Georgia was one of several
states last year in which voters passed same-sex
marriage bans, and many believe homosexuality was used as a
divisive wedge issue in the presidential campaign.
Opponents argued in court that the constitutional
amendment was flawed because it contained more than
one subject. They also claimed the summary that voters saw
on the ballot was misleading.
While the judge's ruling could come soon, it
won't signal an end to the fight over same-sex
marriage, said Jack Senterfitt, who challenged the
amendment on behalf of gay rights organization Lambda Legal.
"It's fairly clear that however she rules, it will
wind up in the Georgia supreme court," he said. (AP)