Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gay Rights Controversy Likely to Grow; Lawmakers and Activists Expect More Referendums and Lawsuits to Come

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gay Rights Controversy Likely to Grow; Lawmakers and Activists Expect More Referendums and Lawsuits to Come

Article excerpt

Byline: BRIAN BASINGER, The Times-Union

ATLANTA -- Following a year that saw gay marriage establish itself as one of the hot-button cultural issues in Georgia politics alongside abortion and the state flag, advocates on both sides of the debate say the subject isn't likely to go away anytime soon.

In fact, many of the lawyers, lawmakers and activists embroiled in the gay-marriage battle say the public can expect to see even more lawsuits, voter referendums and political posturing in the years to come.

Besides skirmishes over same-sex marriage licenses, other issues like gay adoption, foster parenting and shared health-care plans are expected to be tossed into the political arena.

"We're talking about the future of our country," said Sadie Fields, chairwoman of the Christian Coalition of Georgia, which heavily lobbied state lawmakers this year for a constitutional referendum on gay marriage and hopes to see restrictions added on gay adoption and employment benefits. "We draw the line at governments sanctioning anything other than traditional marriage. It's too important not to. We're talking about what kind of country, when I depart this life, am I going to leave to my children."

Gay-rights groups say they also expect the controversy surrounding gay marriage to continue long after Georgia voters decide whether to add a constitutional ban on same-sex unions to the state constitution on Nov. 2.

"We view this as a long-term battle and we know that we are going to suffer setbacks in some states and make progress in others," said Michael Adams, spokesman for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a national gay-rights legal organization based in New York which is helping to challenge Georgia's gay-marriage referendum. "The mixed bag will continue to be a reality. But at the same time, we feel like things are moving in the right direction."

Eleven states, including Georgia, are set to hold referendums on Election Day asking voters whether a ban on gay marriages ought to be added to their state constitutions.

The vast majority -- in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma and Utah -- are expected to pass. Only in Michigan and Oregon do polls show voters closely divided over the issue.

With future legal duels looming, both sides say they made great progress in 2004, pointing to several victories in the courts and at the voting booths.

In January, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled in favor of Florida's statewide ban on gay adoptions.

Then, over the summer, voters in Louisiana and Missouri overwhelmingly approved constitutional bans on gay marriage.

However, a state court judge in Louisiana almost immediately struck down the referendum results in that state, ruling the wording of the amendment was unconstitutional because it asked voters to ban both gay marriage and civil unions in one question, an apparent violation of how amendments in Louisiana are allowed to be drafted. …

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