Ga. Supreme Court Hears Challenges to Marriage Amendment

Two groups argue the proposed amendment is unconstitutional because the ballot refrendum does not mention the amendment's section on civil unions.
( [email protected] ) Oct 20, 2004 05:27 PM EDT

Two weeks before a state constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage is scheduled to appear before voters, the Georgia Supreme Court heard challenges on the proposal on Tuesday.

Justices heard arguments from two groups opposing the amendment, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, for 40 minutes but did not indicate when they would rule.

Amendment opponents argued before the high court that the presentation of the state amendment as it would appear before voters is misleading since it leaves out the part on same-sex civil unions.

The proposed amendment consists of two parts. Voters will only see the first part which reads: 'Shall the constitution be amended so as to provide that this state shall recognize as marriage only the union of a man and a woman?'

The second section, which reads: 'No union between persons of the same sex shall be recognized by this state as entitled to the benefits of marriage,' will not appear on the ballot.

“They didn't mention civil unions because they know that voters would not favor putting that into the Constitution,” said Beth Littrell of the American Civil Liberties Union.

However, amendment co-author Sen. Mike Crotts said voters of aware of what the law will do.

"They're not giving the voters enough credit for being smart enough to understand what's out there,” he said.

The second part of the amendment was intended to prohibit the state from recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages and would not deprive homosexuals of any legal rights or benefits such as those given by a private employer, according to Crotts.

He said, “If they choose to do it, it's their choice, and government shouldn't be telling them, an employee, what they can do with an employee. That's a relationship between them."

Georgia would be one the eleven states to vote on marriage amendments this fall if the Supreme Court does not stop the ballot referendum scheduled for Nov. 2. In a lower court, a Fulton County judge threw out the challenge to the amendment, saying it had to go before Georgia voters first. The Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal.]

“They're trying to get the court to do what they could not accomplish in the legislative process,” said Crotts.

Although Missouri and Louisiana overwhelmingly passed similar amendments earlier this year, a judge declared the Louisiana amendment unconstitutional on the grounds that it banned same-sex civil unions on top of same-sex marriages.