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Anti-Gay Initiative Fails to Make Nevada Ballot

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Backers of a controversial Nevada anti-gay initiative, designed to make it legal to discriminate against gay men and lesbians, failed to gather enough signatures by the Tuesday deadline to gain a place on the November ballot.

Conservative groups said Tuesday that they had gathered an estimated 31,000 signatures statewide in the past five months in their effort to get on the ballot the so-called minority status and child protection act--far short of the more than 51,000 signatures needed.

In Clark County, where about 75% of Nevada’s citizens reside, a small group of organizers showed up at the county clerk’s office, petitions in hand, and said during a brief news conference that they will resurrect their battle in 1995.

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“It was very quiet and lasted no more than 10 minutes,” said Peggy Karmazin, Clark County voter registration coordinator. “That was their message: that they will do it again.”

Lucille Lusk, chairwoman of the conservative group Nevada Concerned Citizens, applauded the losing effort, saying that it sent a strong message to public officials.

“The tens of thousands of signatures gathered in this short-term effort speak strongly to urging the public schools to teach our children the academic and work skills they need to succeed, and not to become a propaganda channel for some unhealthy trends in our society,” Lusk said in a statement.

Eddie Anderson, a Reno activist who has worked against the petition drive since it was launched in January, said he was not surprised by the outcome--but that he was disappointed.

“I was rather hopeful they would garner enough signatures so we could have a blowout in November,” he said. “According to the state Constitution, had they lost, they never could have resurrected that idea again.”

The Nevada initiative was written by Lon Mabon, the architect of similar legislation throughout the Pacific Northwest. Mabon is chairman of the Oregon Citizens Alliance, the parent group of Nevada Citizens Alliance, which launched the Nevada petition drive.

The proposed amendment to the state Constitution said in part that “objection to homosexuality based upon one’s convictions is a Liberty and right of conscience and shall not be considered discrimination relating to civil rights.”

If the measure had won, gay men and lesbians would not have been allowed to act as foster parents, nor could they have won custody of their children if the other parent in the dispute was heterosexual.

Under the proposal, homosexuality could be acknowledged in public school health or social studies classes but not in a way that would “elevate homosexuality to a neutral or normal position in a child’s eyes,” Mabon said.

Similar petition drives face deadlines this summer in Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Missouri, Arizona and Idaho.


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