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No on gay marriage amendment 

Even bigots should oppose the pro-bigotry amendment

The esteemed legal scholars in Georgia's General Assembly have given us an opportunity to write bigotry into our state constitution. How thoughtful.

For fair-minded citizens, voting against Constitutional Amendment 1 should be a no-brainer. It's a cruel idea that, if passed, will benefit nobody (besides a handful of bottom-feeding politicians) and will gratuitously harm real people whose private relationships pose no conceivable threat to anybody else.

But even those who don't like the idea of same-sex marriage -- which, while we're on the topic, already is illegal in Georgia -- ought to oppose the Legislature's version of the gay-marriage amendment.

The proposed federal amendment that recently failed in the U.S. House of Representatives applied strictly to gay marriage. But Georgia's murkily worded proposal goes way beyond that. It also would prohibit civil unions between gay couples, could undermine domestic partner benefits, and most certainly would give gay-haters legal ammunition to attack other rights and privileges that gays and lesbians already have.

Many of Georgia's largest employers -- Home Depot, BellSouth and Coke, to name a few -- offer domestic partner benefits to gay employees as a recruiting tool. Were companies barred from offering such benefits, Georgia would lose a big competitive edge in attracting and retaining major corporations. Because of ambiguous wording, it's difficult to figure out whether the amendment could be used to prevent domestic partner benefits, but make no mistake that arguing the point is next up on the religious right's gay-hating agenda.

When polled, most Georgians oppose gay marriage but are evenly split on various civil benefits for gay couples. So it seems a bit of a reach to enshrine the broadest restrictions conceivable in the state constitution.

But state lawmakers created a bait-and-switch to trick voters -- alluding only to marriage on the ballot version of a more complex piece of legislation. Even the nonpartisan League of Women Voters took the rare move of denouncing the amendment because voters won't see what they're actually voting for.

As we're writing, the Georgia Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a lawsuit aimed at blocking the vote on the grounds that the ballot description of the proposed amendment is deceptive. It's telling that the amendment's proponents are expected to counter-argue that there is ample precedent in Georgia for allowing deceptive items on the ballot.

The Rev. Timothy McDonald III, pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta, is among those who've joined the lawsuit to block the vote on the amendment. He contends that the proposed amendment is merely an effort to stir up the religious right on Election Day. "This is about politics, not morality," McDonald says. Amen.

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