Organizers of a Nevada effort to impose a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages say they have more than enough signatures to get the plan on the November ballot, and will file the names next week.
The head of the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage says his group has collected ''significantly more'' than the minimum 44,009 petition signatures needed.
Although state law currently bars gay marriage in Nevada, coalition president Richard Ziser said a constitutional ban is still needed. He said Vermont has approved a gay ''civil union'' statute, and other states might be forced to recognize those unions.
''We need to be clear that we will not recognize same-gender marriages performed in another state,'' said Ziser, president of Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas. ''Homosexuality is a sin.''
Ziser plans to file his petition with the secretary of state on June 15, after which officials will spot-check the validity of the signatures.
In order for the amendment to take effect, a majority of voters would have to approve it this year and again in 2002.
Gays, lesbians and their heterosexual supporters are planning to combat the measure with a ''Decline to Sign'' advertising campaign.
''We have been quietly marshaling our forces,'' said Bob Fulkerson, state director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, a nonprofit organization that supports the counter-effort's Coalition for Unity.
''We're gearing up for a two-year battle. We didn't choose this fight, but have no doubt, we're in it for the long run,'' Fulkerson said. ''This is about discrimination. It's not about the sanctity of marriage.
''Since they started this petition drive, there have been at least a thousand legal divorces in the state, hundreds of domestic abuse cases, drug and alcohol problems and innumerable other damaging social problems that lead to the breakdown of the institution of marriage,'' he said.
''If they are concerned about the sanctity of that institution, why don't they put their dollars and energy toward addressing those social problems?''
Ziser responded: ''This initiative is not about those issues. It is about protecting the institution of marriage as being between a man and a woman. It is about protecting Nevada laws.
''And I can guarantee you that the faith-based organizations who support us have programs devoted to those social problems.''
The Coalition for the Protection of Marriage is heavily supported by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members were central to antigay marriage efforts in Hawaii and Alaska, and most recently, in California.