Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Judge voids Georgia gay marriage ban

Judge voids Georgia gay marriage ban

ATLANTA (Reuters) - A Georgia judge on Tuesday struck down a ban on same-sex marriage that was approved by voters in 2004, saying it violated the Southern state's constitution.

Judge Constance Russell of Fulton County Superior Court ruled that the measure violates the state's "single-subject rule" as it asked voters to decide on multiple issues in one amendment, said Jack Senterfitt, an attorney with gay rights group Lambda Legal Defense.

"We believe this is a victory for all Georgia voters, no matter your beliefs on the underlying issue," said Senterfitt, whose group had challenged the ban along with the state arm of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Georgia was one of several states where voters solidly backed state constitutional amendments in 2004 to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue voiced disappointment in the ruling and said he was weighing his options to protect the will of the people.

"This decision highlights the effect activist judges can have on our system of governance," Perdue, a Republican seeking re-election this year, said in a statement. Perdue noted that 76 percent voted in support of the constitutional amendment two years ago.

(Additional reporting by Jim Loney in Miami)