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Judge Effectively Cuts Gay Rights Issue From Lawsuit

December 21, 1988

RENO, Nev. (AP) _ A judge has rejected the American Civil Liberties Union’s bid to join a lawsuit over the forced cancellation of the 1988 Gay Rodeo National Championship, effectively removing gay rights as an issue in the dispute.

In denying the ACLU’s motion, the judge determined the issue that has pitted conservative residents against homosexual organizers was not civil rights, said Churchill County District Attorney Kevin Pasquale.

″There was an effort to make this some kind of gay rights forum. They wanted to turn this into a three-ring circus. But it didn’t work. The judge said the ACLU can’t play,″ Pasquale said.

Shelly Chase, executive director of the Nevada ACLU, said her group was giving up despite the outcome of Monday’s hearing before District Judge Archie Blake in Fallon.

″We’re still trying to come up with a way to get involved,″ Ms. Chase said. ″We just have to prove that discrimination occurred ... that there was an effort to try to keep an unpopular group out by using laws that are too broadly applied.″

The National Gay Rodeo championship was canceled in mid-October just days before its scheduled opening after Blake signed a temporary injunction preventing the event from being held at a private Fallon arena.

The 20-acre Stockman’s Arena was leased from owner David Lantry after the International Gay Rodeo Association had been turned away by public arenas in Reno, Virginia City and Fallon.

In granting the temporary injunction, Blake agreed with the county, saying the health and safety of the community was at stake because of expected crowds of up to 1,000 that would strain police and emergency services.

Blake said the rodeo organizers also did not have the proper county license for the event.

The judge’s decision was upheld by the Nevada Supreme Court, which said the case did not raise questions of homosexual rights or freedom of expression.

County officials acted to halt the rodeo after about 50 Fallon residents presented them with a petition signed by 1,519 people who didn’t want the event in their community.

The county is seeking a permanent injunction to block future rodeos on Lantry’s property because officials claim it is not large enough or properly equipped. Lantry, with the help of ACLU attorneys, is fighting the permanent injunction.

Blake set a May 17-19 trial on the issue after denying ACLU-backed motions, including one to move the case from Fallon.

Ms. Chase said appeals would likely follow and the gay rodeo association was expected to seek damages from the county for more than $20,000 in losses because of the cancellation.

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