Marriage Ban Not Concrete; Court Rulings Could Force End to Laws against Same-Sex Unions

By Jones, Walter C. | The Florida Times Union, June 15, 2009 | Go to article overview

Marriage Ban Not Concrete; Court Rulings Could Force End to Laws against Same-Sex Unions


Jones, Walter C., The Florida Times Union


Byline: WALTER C. JONES

ATLANTA - As the number of states legalizing same-sex marriage grows, Georgia remains locked into a ban voters added to the state constitution. Yet, some experts say there's a chance that ban could disappear.

Same-sex marriage or civil unions are now legal in six states, either through legislative action or court decisions. Supporters feel encouraged the Democratic Congress and President Obama will repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act. And even conservative former Vice President Dick Cheney has come out for it.

The wave of new-found political support for same-sex marriage in those states won't soon wash over Georgia. Voters here are unlikely to change their mind after three of every four of them in 2004 supported adding a ban to the state constitution - on top of a state law that was already on the books.

Still, the topic is already becoming an issue in county and municipal elections this year and may be a factor in next year's gubernatorial and legislative races, according to political consultant Bill Crane of Atlanta-based Hudson/Crane.

"Though the issue is largely being driven by gay-rights activists and organizations like the ACLU, it is also already a popular question at candidate forums for the 2009 Atlanta mayoral race," he said.

Even Paul Cates of the American Civil Liberties Union's Gay and Lesbian Rights Project doesn't expect Georgia voters to quickly switch, but the McDonough, Ga., native said from his vantage point in New York, court challenges could force the change.

Challenges are already filed in federal district courts that could wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court where decisions can reverberate across the states.

The most prominent challenge is to California's version of the constitution ban, filed by former Bush administration solicitor general Ted Olsen on behalf of a couple from there.

Cates and some legal experts think Olsen's arguments that the ban discriminates against homosexuals could be persuasive under the U.S. Constitution's equal-protection clause.

"If the court agreed with that, I think that would affect all of the marriage amendments around the country," Cates said. "It would be a very sweeping change."

Other legal scholars are doubtful.

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Marriage Ban Not Concrete; Court Rulings Could Force End to Laws against Same-Sex Unions
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