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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended May 14, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 10May00

Summarized by Rosemary Pollock

Gay Marriage Target Of Proposed Nevada Amendment
Las Vegas NV Sun 8May00 N1
By Stacy J. Willis: Las Vegas Sun

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA -- Richard Ziser, chairman of the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage, is hard at work to amend the Nevada Constitution to prove that religion and politics are inseparable bedfellows. Ziser is actively circulating petitions that will amend the constitution during the November vote to include the wording: "Only a marriage between a male and a female person shall be recognized and given effect in this state."

"It's not a matter of wanting to deny homosexuals their rights," Ziser said. "That's not it. It's a moral issue. All of the major world religions define marriage to be between a man and a woman. All consider homosexuality to be a sin." Gay marriages are not currently recognized as legal in Nevada. Ziser fears that with the current passage of the "civil union" bill in Vermont, Nevada will be forced to recognize marriages under the U.S. Constitution's full faith and credit clause.

Ziser is the president and chairman of elders at the Canyon Ridge Christian Church. It is a nondenominational megachurch in northwest Las Vegas. The Coalition for the Protection of Marriage has tried to organize with other conservative religious organizations. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints heavily backs the initiative and has actively participated in other state ballot initiatives.

Catholic Bishop Daniel Walsh wrote a letter to his priests instructing them not to circulate petitions in their parishes. "He urged Catholics to support the family and protect marriage, but he was concerned that this particular measure would be used to foster ill will against homosexuals, and we support the dignity of all humans," diocese Chancellor Bob Stoeckig said.

Members of the Clark County Ministerial Association and the National Conference for Community and Justice's Interfaith Committee decided against supporting the initiative petition as a group. However, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is known for its success in mobilizing a grass-roots effort.

"The church has encouraged members to circulate petitions," said Will Stoddard, LDS Church spokesman in Las Vegas. "Members are encouraged to volunteer for the coalition. But the petitions are not circulated on church property or at church meetings." "The church has invited their members to make direct financial contributions to the coalition, but as a church we never have held any ill will of any kind against those who profess to be homosexual or have those tendencies," Stoddard said.

Currently thirty-two states have passed similar legislation that recognizes only heterosexual marriages, with California being the most recent. "If a same-sex marriage is legitimized by the state, then (gays and lesbians) have the full authority of the state to go into schools and teach this as a legitimate alternative to marriage between a man and woman," Ziser said. "The Bible says that it is not."

Kathy Gillespie, Acting Director of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center, calls the petition "divisive and unnecessary." "We view this issue as an equal-rights issue. There are certain rights that marriage conveys. All we are asking for is equal rights and equal protections.

"If I am sick and incapacitated, I want my partner to have the authority to talk to the doctor for me. If I die, I want my partner to inherit my estate. Many times, if we go to the extra effort to get lawyers to draft these documents without marriage, they are ignored," Gillespie said. The Coalition for Unity, a statewide organization supported by the gay and lesbian community along with heterosexual supporters, is fighting the petition initiative.

The LDS Church has been active in combating gay marriage. LDS leaders have urged members to donate to the anti-gay marriage effort in California, which voters passed 61 percent to 39 percent in March. In 1998 the LDS Church contributed more than $1.1 million defeat gay-marriage proposals in Hawaii and Alaska. The Nevada issue is expected to turn into an advertising war by late summer.


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