July 2, 1996 in Nation/World

Group Drops Initiative Aimed At Gays Foes Say Alliance Lacked Enough Signatures

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The Idaho Citizens Alliance on Monday dropped its campaign to put another anti-gay rights initiative on the ballot, and vowed instead to lobby the state Legislature to pass similar laws.

Kelly Johannsen, ICA executive director, said the decision came because of an opinion issued by the Idaho attorney general’s office on Monday. That opinion declared much of the initiative unconstitutional.

But opponents said the ICA clearly wasn’t able to gather the more than 41,000 signatures it needed by Friday to qualify the initiative for the November ballot.

“We think the message to Kelly Walton and the few supporters he has left is clear: Idahoans have rejected extremist attempts to divide our state before, and have done so again,” said Mary Rohlfing, co-chairman of the Decline to Sign Campaign.

Walton, ICA’s founder, and Johannsen said in a statement that they didn’t want to cause the state of Idaho any unnecessary expense by pushing an initiative that was likely to be found unconstitutional. Johannsen wouldn’t say how many signatures had been gathered.

The attorney general’s opinion, written in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning a Colorado anti-gay rights measure, concluded that two of the initiative’s five sections would be found unconstitutional, and a third was iffy.

The opinion was requested by Rep. Jeff Alltus, R-Coeur d’Alene, for the ICA.

Alltus said he’s not interested in sponsoring the legislation the ICA plans to propose, because he’s already “got a boatload of stuff to carry next time.”

But he said he’ll support the ICA’s bills.

“It’s such an unhealthy lifestyle,” Alltus said. “It absolutely amazes me that anybody would think that homosexuality is OK.”

The initiative would have:

Prevented homosexuals from being granted minority status.

Banned quotas or “special rights” for homosexuals.

Banned spending any state money to promote homosexuality.

Prohibited schools from endorsing homosexual behavior and banned same-sex marriage.

The attorney general’s opinion found that the minority-status and special-rights language was similar to that overturned in Colorado.

Idaho already passed legislation last year banning same-sex marriage.

The school issues dealt with in the initiative met constitutional muster, said Bill Von Tagen, director of governmental and public affairs for the attorney general’s office, because it said specifically that schools shouldn’t promote homosexual behavior that violates Idaho law.

Johannsen said the ICA will try adding that kind of language to the state-spending provision, too, then bring it to the Legislature. Without that language, the state- spending measure was “too close to call” on whether it was constitutional, Von Tagen said.

Johannsen said she hopes someday the Supreme Court decision will be overturned. But in the meantime, the ICA will focus on pushing the school and state-spending measures in the Legislature.

The organization had earlier tried to qualify four initiatives for the ballot this year. But in May it dropped measures restricting abortion, giving tax credits for non-public school students and limiting teachers’ negotiating rights.

“We learned some valuable lessons - one initiative at a time is plenty,” Johannsen said. “To get it on the ballot, it’s just a monumental task, especially on a small budget.”

The ICA then chose to focus on the anti-gay rights initiative. It qualified a similar measure for the ballot in 1994, but it lost narrowly at the polls.

“We’ll have to see what happens,” Johannsen said. “If they don’t deal with these issues in the legislative session, I think we’ll be back in the initiative process.”

, DataTimes MEMO: Cut in Spokane edition

Cut in Spokane edition

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