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Arizona Group Launches Anti-Gay Rights Initiative Drive

December 23, 1993

PHOENIX (AP) _ A California group already fighting against gay rights in 10 states brought its cause to Arizona on Wednesday, launching a statewide drive to place an anti-gay rights amendment on next year’s ballot.

The proposed amendment to the Arizona Constitution would prohibit state and local governments from passing ordinances protecting homosexuals from discrimination. The proposed amendment is similar to one struck down by a Colorado judge earlier this month.

″This is not an initiative that discriminates,″ said Frank Meliti, a Phoenix businessman and chairman of the initiative’s sponsor, Traditional Values Coalition of Arizona. ″All we’re asking for is an even ball field.″

Buena Reed, board member of the gay support group P-FLAG, or Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays, said the amendment was an attack on civil rights.

″We see this as an attempt to legalize discrimination against our sons and daughters,″ Reed said.

The Traditional Values Coalition is closely affiliated with the Anaheim, Calif.-based Traditional Rights Coalition of America. The latter group has sponsored similar anti-gay rights initiatives in 10 other states.

Traditional Rights Coalition Chairman Lou Sheldon said homosexuals should not get the same legal protection as ethnic minorities because they are living a ″behavior-based lifestyle.″

Colorado is the only state to have passed an anti-gay rights amendment. Sheldon said his group also is backing initiative campaigns in California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, Michigan, Missouri, Maine and Florida.

The group also is working to stop the repeal of sodomy laws in Nebraska, he said.

Voters approved Colorado’s anti-gay rights measure in 1992. State District Judge Jeffrey Bayless struck down the measure, saying it violates the constitution’s equal protection clause by usurping ″the fundamental right of an identifiable group to participate in the political process.″

Meliti said the Arizona initiative is in response to gay rights ordinances passed in Phoenix and Tucson.

He also said his group has researched the issue and believes the amendment would survive a court test in Arizona because the state’s constitution has specific language prohibiting the granting of any rights or privileges to any group that are not enjoyed by everyone.

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