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Georgia amendment
banning same-sex marriage struck down

Georgia amendment
banning same-sex marriage struck down


A Georgia constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage approved by voters in 2004 was struck down Tuesday because it violated the constitution's procedural requirements.

A state judge in Georgia has struck down a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage approved by voters in November 2004, saying the measure violated the state constitution's procedural requirements, which exist to prevent voter confusion and protect the constitutional process.

The trial court ruling, which came on Tuesday, is in response to a lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal, the ACLU of Georgia, and law firm Alston and Bird on behalf of a group of voters, legislators, and faith leaders. The state is expected to appeal the ruling, which will go directly to the Georgia supreme court.

"This court is well aware that Amendment One enjoyed great public support," Judge Constance C. Russell wrote in her ruling. "However, the test of law is not its popularity. Procedural safeguards such as the single subject rule rarely enjoy popular support. But, ultimately it is those safeguards that preserve our liberties, because they ensure that the actions of government are constrained by the rule of law."

On November 2, 2004, Georgia voters approved an amendment to the state constitution that, among several other things, bars same-sex couples from marrying. Efforts to keep the amendment off of the ballot failed. The Georgia supreme court agreed with a lower-court finding that prevented judicial review until after the election. The plaintiff group refiled the case immediately following the election, leading to Tuesday's ruling.

"Judge Russell's decision is well within established law," said Johnny Stephenson, a partner at Alston and Bird. "This case is about making sure that whenever we seek to alter the constitutional rights of the people of this state--regardless of the underlying subject matter--the process followed by the legislature is lawful and proper. This ruling upholds that principle and thereby protects the civil liberties of all Georgians."

"Just because an issue is a political hot button right now doesn't mean that people can run roughshod over rules put in place to protect the Georgia constitution from exactly this kind of heated political debate," added Jack Senterfitt, senior staff attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern regional office in Atlanta. (The Advocate)

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