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The hidden hundred words
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Sometimes what you see isn’t what you get.

On Nov. 2, Georgia voters will be asked “Shall the Constitution be amended so as to provide that this state shall recognize as marriage only the union of man and woman?”

Sounds simple enough. But if the amendment passes, opponents say, the consequences could affect not only gay marriages, but civil unions as well.

“Part B of the amendment will not appear on the ballot,” says opponent Robert Ludgate. “It would do severe damage to civil unions.”

The same restrictions placed on gay couples would also apply to those in a civil union, Ludgate says. Even if only gays were affected, he would be opposed to the amendment.

“This amendment just struck me as unfair and unjust,” he says. “I wanted to give people the chance to hear both sides of the issue.

“This amendment discriminates against people who love each other,” Ludgate says. “I’m straight, but I don’t understand why someone would want to deny rights to someone of a different sexual orientation.”

Ludgate says the constitutional amendment could leave family members without access to health insurance and endanger custody and visitation rights. “If someone goes into an intensive care unit, their loved one could not make decisions about their care or visit them,” he says.

“It’s the only amendment to the constitution that would take away rights rather than give them,” Ludgate says. “What really concerns me is that the second part of the amendment is not being made public.”

In an effort to inform the public, Ludgate is organizing a public forum on Thursday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. in the Unitarian Universalist Church sanctuary. For information, call 964-5095.

The forum is sponsored by the church’s Social Justice and Action Committee, of which Ludgate is co-chair.

Members of the committee have gone door to door to talk about the amendment. “I’ve actually had people tell me they’re not going to vote for it now because it’s not what they thought it was,” Ludgate says.

“There already are laws on the books concerning marriage, and there does not need to be a constitutional amendment,” he says. “What worries me is, if it goes through, who’s next?”

The forum will consist of six people -- three in favor of the amendment, three against it. Audience members can fill out cards to ask questions.

Kevin Clark, who heads Georgia Equality Savannah, the local chapter of a statewide gay advocacy group, will be one of the forum panelists. He says the amendment runs 100 words beyond what will be on the ballot.

“They’re wanting to amend the constitution, a sacred document, to enshrine an entire segment of the population as second-class citizens,” he says. “We are trying to educate people about the full extent of the language of the amendment.”

It hasn’t been easy.

“It’s amazing how many people are not even aware this is being proposed. It’s just amazing to me that there is no dialogue in the community about this. People are doing what they can to battle this, but there has been very little discussion,” he says.

“We are finding a lot of undecideds,” Clark says. “Once we inform them of the full totality of the amendment, they’re against it.”

The Defense of Marriage Act is already on the books, Clark says. “It is illegal in Georgia for gays to marry,” he says. “Gay marriages in other states are not recognized.”

Clark feels certain that the amendment will pass, no matter how many people are contacted. “The fight against it will be our victory,” he says.

“They are trying to silence us and make us go away,” Clark says. “That’s not what we are going to do. If it passes, we will look to the courts to strike it down.”

The public forum on the proposed gay marriage amendment will be Thursday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. in the Unitarian Universalist Church sanctuary. For information, call 964-5095.