Georgians Approve Ban on Gay Marriages; State One of 11 Where Voters Were Considering Such Constitutional Amendments

By Basinger, Brian | The Florida Times Union, November 3, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Georgians Approve Ban on Gay Marriages; State One of 11 Where Voters Were Considering Such Constitutional Amendments


Basinger, Brian, The Florida Times Union


Byline: BRIAN BASINGER, The Times-Union

ATLANTA -- Nearly one year after a Massachusetts court ruled same-sex couples there have the right to marry, Georgia voters on Tuesday appeared to give overwhelming approval to a referendum placing a ban on gay marriages in their own state constitution.

Early, unofficial returns from the Georgia Secretary of State's Office showed the amendment on the way to passing easily.

The controversial amendment made its way onto the ballot after a bitter fight earlier this year in the General Assembly, where backers of the amendment first failed, then later succeeded during a second vote in sending the referendum on for final approval by the public.

The amendment then survived a last-minute court challenge in October from voters who argued the ban's wording was unconstitutional.

Gay marriage is already illegal in Georgia, but many lawmakers argued a constitutional amendment was needed to prevent judges from ruling same-sex couples have the right to marry under the Georgia Constitution.

Georgia voters also appeared to give wide support to Amendment 2, which would allow the Georgia Supreme Court to accept questions of law from federal courts. The amendment was widely supported in the state's legal community as a way to streamline court proceedings.

Some voters said Tuesday the referendum on gay marriage, listed on the ballot as Amendment 1, was one of the main reasons they turned out to vote.

Jim Martin, a 33-year-old salesman from Acworth, said he voted in favor of the amendment because of "religious reasons."

At another Cobb County precinct, 35-year-old Acworth contractor David Miller said his "conservative upbringing" compelled him to vote for the ban.

However, Decatur couple Stephen and Kathryn Onufrak said they voted against the referendum, citing their support for gay marriage.

"We have lots of gay friends and people that we're close to and I think they should have all the same rights," said Kathryn Onufrak, a 25-year-old research coordinator.

Massachusetts became the first state to perform same-sex marriages on May 17, while Vermont remains the only state to offer same-sex couples the option of a civil union, a marriagelike contract that offers some of the state benefits available to married heterosexual couples.

Georgia was among 11 states where voters were considering constitutional amendments that would ban gay marriage.

Previous polls have shown the proposals were likely to win heavy support from voters in Georgia, as well as in Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma and Utah.

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