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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Why Bad Writers Shouldn't Write Laws

(Keywords: , , , , , legislators in and aren't the brightest bulbs in the pack)

Reuters has the story of the Georgian same sex marriage ban being struck down.

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.

Not surprisingly, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue went straight to the republican talking points.

"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.

Yup, activist judges. It's not the ban backers fault that they screwed up the referendum, it's an 'activist judge's' fault for pointing it out. According to the ACLU, "'This amendment is constitutionally flawed, period. Not only does it combine four different subjects, in violation of the Georgia Constitution, the clearly deceptive language voters will see on the ballot creates the misperception that its only purpose is to define marriage,' said Jack Senterfitt, Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional office in Atlanta. 'Furthermore, separate and apart from the lawsuit, Lambda Legal believes that a group's civil rights shouldn't be put to a popular vote.'"

Here in Wisconsin, things don't look bright for the marriage ban. The Racine Journal Times reports, "Even though he knows people differ with him on homosexuality, [Rev. Glen] Halbe [of Fair Wisconsin] said the proposed amendment could affect senior couples who may not be married but are living together for reasons of tax purposes and retirement.

"'It is a very broad amendment, and for that reason it could affect hundreds of thousands of couples in our state,' Halbe said. 'It's just wrong.'

"A number of groups in Wisconsin, such as the Wisconsin Medical Society, the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups and the Wisconsin League of Women Voters have come out against the proposed amendment. A number of religious leaders also are opposed to the idea of amending the constitution."

Once again, a poorly written referendum may doom a same sex marriage ban. Opponents of the ban don't have to defend gay marriage, which in Wisconsin is entirely theoretical anyway. All they have to do is cast this as an attack on senior housemates - which it is, although that wasn't the intent. Even if voters absolutely despise the idea of same sex marriage, there's a compelling argument against the referendum.

I've written before that the right has a bad habit of stringing religious crazies along by promising to attack their enemies, then forgetting all about it once they get elected. A more cynical man (if that's possible) might think that these referenda were designed to fail.

But I don't think so. I think the people who write these bills are just clumsy lawyers. These bans are failing because because the legislators writing them just aren't all that smart.