Coalition says 'protection of marriage' ballot question discriminatory

LAS VEGAS - A statewide grassroots coalition has launched its campaign against a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages in wide-open Nevada.

Members of Equal Rights Nevada - including about two dozen ministers of various denominations - gathered Monday in Las Vegas and Reno to protest the ''protection of marriage'' initiative on the November ballot.

In Las Vegas, the Rev. Valerie Garrick of Northwest Community United Church of Christ said Question 2 is unnecessary because Nevada already has a law requiring marriage to be between a man and woman.

The ballot plan ''makes discrimination against gay and lesbian people part of Nevada's constitution,'' she said. ''That's wrong.''

''It's discriminatory and divisive,'' added Gary Peck, executive director of Nevada's American Civil Liberties Union. ''It's not about protecting marriage at all.''

In Reno, the Rev. Denice Cordova of the Metropolitan Community Church of the Sierras said backers of the initiative claim to speak for all Christians and faiths but ''We want to make it clear by our presence here today that that's not the case.''

Other representatives of religious groups included Jewish rabbis from Las Vegas and Reno, gay and lesbian Mormons, and ministers from Lutheran, Christ Episcopal, United Methodist and Unitarian Universalist churches in Nevada.

Previously, the former Roman Catholic bishop of Las Vegas, Daniel Walsh, asked priests and parishes to support the traditional family but not to support Question 2 because it fosters ill-will toward gays.

The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, a nonprofit organization that advocates for numerous public-interest causes, also has announced its opposition.

While Equal Rights Nevada can claim a lot of backing from various churches, it faces what the Center for Gays and Lesbians of Southern Nevada terms a David and Goliath struggle in funding its campaign.

''They have $750,000 and we have $1,700,'' said Steve Wickson, the center's executive director.

Richard Ziser, head of the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage that got the proposal on the November ballot, didn't deny that his group is well-funded. But he did argue about the initiative's intent.

''It's not hateful,'' said Ziser, who attended the Las Vegas rally against Question 2. ''It's simply keeping judges and legislatures from other states from changing the laws of Nevada.''

Ziser's group is heavily supported by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which also orchestrated antigay marriage efforts in Hawaii, Alaska and, most recently, in California.


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