Originally created 03/16/04

Petition has little Democratic help



ATLANTA - House Republicans hoping to speed up a vote on a proposal to ban gay marriage in the Georgia Constitution are having a tough time getting their Democratic colleagues to sign on.

Currently, a GOP version of the ban is stuck in the House Rules Committee, where Democratic leaders say it will remain until lawmakers deal with other matters, such as redistricting and the state budget.

The move angered Republicans, who are now circulating a "discharge petition" to force the resolution out of committee for a vote by the entire chamber.

"It may be the only way we can get them to let it back out," said Rep. Warren Massey, R-Winder.

Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, agreed.

"At some point we have to quit being scared of issues and have a debate," he said. "That's what we were elected to do."

Supporters of the ban need 120 signatures to bring the proposal out. Rep. Jeff Brown, R-LaGrange, said Monday he has secured 76 names so far, including six Democrats.

There are 71 Republicans, 108 Democrats and one Independent in the House, meaning Republicans must find at least 43 more Democrats to sign the petition.

The marriage ban passed the Senate in February but was defeated in the House by three votes. Many House Democrats said Monday they are in no rush to vote on the divisive issue again.

"One vote was enough," said Rep. Louise McBee, D-Athens, who voted against the ban during the first vote. "I'm already getting 200 e-mails a day. I'm not going to sign it."

Many conservative Democrats from rural and south Georgia voted in early March to reconsider the chamber's first vote on the ban.

Reach Brian Basinger at (404) 589-8424 or brian.basinger@morris.com.