Published July 20, 2006
ATLANTA (BP) — The Georgia Supreme Court July 6 reinstated the state’s constitutional marriage amendment, unanimously ruling that it does not – as a lower court had ruled – violate the state constitution.
The short six-page decision comes just weeks after a Georgia trial court judge said the amendment violated the state constitution’s single-subject clause, which prevents an amendment from dealing with more than one issue. But the court disagreed.
“I was pleased that we had a 6-0 vote on it,” said Ray Newman, specialist with Ethics and Public Affairs of the Georgia Baptist Convention. “Seventy-six percent of the people of Georgia spoke on the [affirmation of the] issue. It was a single-issue initiative and the court held that up. I was real excited that we had two miracles in one day.”
On the same day as the Georgia decision, New York’s highest court upheld that state’s marriage laws, ruling that “gay marriage” is an issue for the state legislature, and not the courts, to decide.
The New York Court of Appeals’ ruling came by a 4-2 decision and involved four lawsuits brought on behalf of 44 same-sex couples in part by Lambda Legal, a homosexual legal group, and the American Civil Liberties Union. Lambda Legal and the ACLU argued that New York’s marriage laws violated the state Constitution’s equal protection and due process clauses.
The Georgia amendment, passed in 2004 by 76 percent of voters, bans both “gay marriage” and Vermont-style civil unions. Georgia is one of 20 states to have adopted a marriage amendment.
“It’s an encouraging ruling,” stated Don Hattaway, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Cartersville. “It enables the voice of the people to be heard after such an overwhelming vote.”
Hattaway urged caution among those celebrating, however.
“There is still a concern that courts in other states will rule against the people who voted for a marriage amendment. The battle is not over. We have to continue to be vigilant and on guard.
“The people waging this war will not go quietly. They are well financed and looking to redefine marriage from the way it’s appeared for the last 5,000 years. It’s a good time to rejoice, but the battle isn’t over yet.”
John Bryan, pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Atlanta, said the decision was a victory in establishing “moral rightness.”
“This is a reaffirmation of the people’s choice,” he added. “In cosmopolitan areas, we tend to adopt a cosmopolitan lifestyle that demands a more liberal approach to morals.
“The opposite should be true. Our international flavor in the state of Georgia does not mean that we should neglect God’s perspective of the eternal. We need to stay with His standards.”
“I am very pleased and supportive of the Supreme Court’s decision that upheld the will of the people of Georgia,” said Harold Newman, president of Shorter College in Rome. “We gladly partner with Georgia Baptists in upholding the values of the family, in this case particularly the idea that holy matrimony is the union between a man and a woman.”
No violation of the Constitution
“[C]ontrary to the trial court’s ruling,” Justice Robert Benham wrote for the court, the second half of the amendment “does not address a different objective than that of the amendment as a whole and does not render the amendment violative of the multiple-subject prohibition [of the Georgia Constitution].”
The amendment’s objective, the court said, is to reserve “marriage and its attendant benefits to unions of man and woman.”
The first half of the amendment states, in part: “Marriages between persons of the same sex are prohibited in this state.” The second half states, in part: “No union between persons of the same sex shall be recognized by this state as entitled to the benefits of marriage.”
In filing the lawsuit, the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal – a homosexual activist legal group – had argued that the amendment violated the Georgia Constitution. Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican and member of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, had threatened to call a special session of the legislature this year to deal with the issue if the Georgia Supreme Court didn’t reinstate the amendment.
The Georgia lawsuit is similar to a case from Louisiana more than a year ago. Louisiana voters passed their amendment in 2004 with 78 percent of the vote, but homosexual and liberal activists filed suit, arguing it violated the Louisiana Constitution’s single-subject rule. A lower court judge agreed and struck it down, but the Louisiana Supreme Court reinstated the amendment in a January 2005 decision.
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