Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Anti-gay activists to appeal marriage referendum decision

Anti-gay activists to appeal marriage referendum decision
By Gary Barlow
Copyright by The Chicago Free Press

Anti-gay activists went before the Illinois State Board of Elections July 5 to appeal the agency’s ruling that a referendum seeking a state constitutional ban on gay and lesbian marriage won’t be on the November election ballot because proponents’ petitions didn’t include enough qualified signatures.

Peter LaBarbera, the anti-gay activist who heads up the Illinois Family Institute, disputed the Board’s finding, reported last week in CFP, that a random check of signatures on petitions submitted by Protect Marriage Illinois, an IFI offshoot, found enough irregularities that the petitions were “presumed to be invalid.”

PMI submitted petitions with more than 347,000 signatures. Illinois law requires 283,111 valid signatures from registered voters in order to place a referendum on the state ballot. The referendum sought by PMI and the IFI would urge Illinois legislators to pass an amendment to the Illinois Constitution forbidding legal recognition of gay and lesbian marriages and relationships.

Late last month, the Fair Illinois Committee, a coalition formed by Equality Illinois, the ACLU, the Gay Liberation Network, PFLAG, Lambda Legal and others, submitted challenges to tens of thousands of signatures on PMI’s petitions. Fair Illinois volunteers scrutinized every one of the PMI petition signatures.

Equality’s political director said he wasn’t surprised by the SBOE finding.

“It’s exactly what we expected,” said Rick Garcia. “These people lie about gay people and our lives. Why shouldn’t they lie about the number of signatures they turned in? They missed the bottom line by tens of thousands of signatures.”

Garcia said Fair Illinois’ challenges would bolster the Board’s finding as it considers PMI’s appeal.

“All that hard work by our volunteers—that’s where that will come in,” he said.

Illinois law already bans gays and lesbians from marrying in the state, and Illinois lawmakers have repeatedly rejected IFI’s efforts to pass a state constitutional ban on gay marriages. Polls show that a majority of Illinois voters also oppose such a ban. Garcia said he nevertheless expects the IFI to continue raising the issue.

“This is a fundraising effort for a bunch of right-wing wackos,” he said. “They clearly don’t have what it takes.”


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