Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2000 | 11:07 a.m.
Proponents of the constitutional change insisted it's needed despite the existing state law, and would mirror moves in recent years in 31 other states.
If the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage succeeds in its efforts, it would block state lawmakers from allowing gay marriages. Legislators in 1993 repealed a sodomy statute and last year provided workplace protections for gays and lesbians.
"We are the average Nevadans in this state. We all believe in the preservation of traditional marriage," coalition spokesman Richard Ziser said after filing papers for the constitutional change with the secretary of state's office.
Gay and lesbian organizations are already discussing strategies to combat the effort, which they see as an attack on equal treatment. But Ziser said he's confident that voters will back his proposal.
The concern, he said, is that courts in other states may allow same-sex marriages, and under the "full faith and credit clause" of the U.S. Constitution, Nevada would be required to recognize such marriages.
The group will need 44,009 signatures of registered voters by June 20 to get the issue on the November ballot, and Ziser said he's hoping for up to 80,000 names. If the initiative passes in November, it would go on the ballot again in 2002 before it becomes part of the Nevada Constitution.
Lee Plotkin, a political columnist for the gay publication Las Vegas Bugle, said an antigay petition in 1994 failed to qualify for the ballot, and he predicted the same thing will happen this time.
If they were truly concerned about protecting marriage, they would be doing something to improve on their own divorce rate of 50 percent," Plotkin added.
Bob Fulkerson of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada also criticized the petition, saying "it's incredibly divisive. They're starting a war that's going to divide people. It's going to be very bitter and painful, and for what?"