By Russ Bynum
The Associated Press
SAVANNAH, Ga. —; Secretary of State Cathy Cox, a Democratic candidate for governor, said she supports a special legislative session on Georgia’s constitutional ban on gay marriage if that’s what it takes for the state to move on to other issues.
“I want us to do everything else we can do to resolve the issue to give Georgians the security of having something they so fundamentally believe in in their constitution, so we can move on to address other issues,” Cox said last week at a forum sponsored by the Georgia Press Association.
Cox said she doesn’t believe the state needs the amendment because same-sex marriage already is against state law. But she said voters proved the issue was important to them when 76 percent voted overwhelmingly in favor of the ban in 2004.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Constance Russell struck down the ban in May, saying it violated the state constitution by changing more than one aspect of Georgia law with a single ballot question.
The state has appealed the ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court. Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue has said he’ll call the Legislature into a special session to rewrite the amendment before November’s general election unless the court rules quickly.
“I’m sorry that we have to rehash the issue this year, when it was well-settled by the overwhelming majority of the will of the people,” said Cox, who reiterated she believes marriage should be between “one man and one woman.”
Some gay supporters have accused Cox of flip-flopping on the issue by saying the amendment was unnecessary in 2004 but supporting a special legislative session to retool the amendment this year.
Gay voters could form a powerful constituency in the July 18 Democratic primary. But Democrats running statewide have compelling reasons to support the gay marriage ban in 2006 after it won overwhelming support in 2004, said Charles Bullock, a political scientist at the University of Georgia.
“A candidate may look at that gay and lesbian vote and say, ‘I’d love to have that in a Democratic primary,”’ Bullock said. “But there’s a price you pay in the general election for courting it.”
Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, Cox’s main rival for the nomination to challenger Perdue in November, did not attend what would have been the pair’s first debate of the primary season.
The event was held a day after a South Carolina grand jury indicted Taylor’s son, Fletcher Taylor, on charges of felony drunken-driving in a crash that killed his best friend last August near Charleston.
Taylor spokesman Rick Dent said the indictment of Taylor’s son was not the reason he declined to debate Cox in Savannah. He said Taylor already had committed to two fund-raisers in Atlanta that day.
“We’ve already committed to three televised debates, and we look forward to debating Cathy,” Dent said.
Randy Wind, president of the Georgia Press Association, said Taylor’s campaign agreed to debate Cox two weeks ago but called to cancel Wednesday evening without specifying why.
Dent denied Taylor ever confirmed he would attend.
Taylor also plans to skip a June 26 debate sponsored by the Georgia Municipal Association. Association spokesman Al Outland said Taylor’s campaign called this week to decline the group’s invitation, which the association thought the candidate had already accepted.
Two longshot candidates seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination —; Bill Bolton, of Marietta, and Mac McCarley, of Stockbridge —; shared the stage Thursday with Cox in Savannah.
A card bearing Taylor’s name was placed in front of an empty seat, and Cox couldn’t resist a slight dig in her closing statement.
“I want to applaud Bill and Mac for not being afraid to take whatever questions you might throw at us,” she said.