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Same-sex marriage debate rages on coast to coast

By Michael Davis

Morrow resident Milton Tanner has both gay and straight friends. He says when controversial issues such as proposed constitutional amendments defining marriage come up, differences of opinion are rarely discussed.

"I know several people who are gay," Tanner said. "But I don't think we need a constitutional amendment. It's very extreme for this situation."

He said a proposed ban on same-sex marriage, "cater(s) to the right-wing extreme."

The debate over same-sex marriage has moved to the national level as President Bush announced Tuesday that he would support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court has ruled that barring same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and recently San Francisco officials began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, in apparent defiance of California law.

Bush called marriage the "most enduring human institution" Tuesday and urged the U.S. Congress to quickly pass an amendment that recognized the man-woman union for ratification by the states.

"Unless action is taken, we can expect more arbitrary court decisions, more litigation and more defiance of the law by local officials," he said.

In the Georgia General Assembly, state Sen. Mike Crotts, R-Conyers, is also floating a similar amendment to the Georgia Constitution. After the Defense of Marriage Act passed the Senate, it stalled in the House Monday as the Rules Committee delayed a vote on whether to send it to the House floor.

Some rural Democrats said they couldn't be re-elected unless they supported the amendment, while some urban Democrats said they wanted to fight the Republican legislation.

Members of the South Metro Atlanta branch of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays said the proposed amendment discriminates against homosexuals.

"Gay people, they should have equal rights," said a member from Stockbridge who declined to be identified.

"People say it's a choice," she said. "But who would choose to be treated, sometimes, like less than a human being?"

On Wednesday, dozens of gay men and women filed a lawsuit in Florida to challenge that state's ban on same-sex marriages. An attorney representing more than 170 gay and lesbian individuals named in the suit said, "The purpose of the lawsuit is to fire the first shot at President Bush because he declared war on the gay community."

Same sex marriage is illegal in Georgia but is not addressed in the state constitution.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.