RENO — An anti-gay marriage measure on Nevada's ballot for November was branded as "discriminatory" and "hateful" on Saturday night at a candlelight vigil sponsored by opponents of the initiative, Question 2.
About 150 people, some holding placards reading "Support All Families--Vote No on 2," gathered on the steps of the Washoe County Courthouse to urge defeat of Question 2.
The one-hour event was sponsored by the Stonewall Democrats of Northern Nevada, an advocacy group for the gay, lesbian and bisexual community.
Speakers accused proponents of stirring hatred against gays and lesbians, and of resorting to distortions to try to sell Question 2.
They said the real purpose of Question 2 is not to protect marriage, but to deny gays and lesbians the same rights enjoyed by everyone else. They also noted that state law already defines marriage as between only a man and a woman, and that Question 2's defeat would not change that.
"What Question 2 is really about is homophobic bigotry, plain and simple," said Rabbi Myra Soifer of Reno's Temple Sinai. "If it passes, the next thing we'll see is efforts to discriminate against gays in other areas."
The initiative, which defines marriage as only between a man and a woman, passed in 2000 with 70% in favor; it must pass again this year in order to amend the Nevada Constitution.
Other speakers said they fear its final passage would influence state legislators to side against same-sex couples on issues such as hospital visitation rights, emergency health-care authority, joint property rights and estate inheritance.
"Question 2 is based on fear and hatred. Don't we already have enough fear and hatred in the world?" asked the Rev. Sandy Jacob of Circle's Edge Spiritual Center in Reno, a Religious Science Church.
"It doesn't protect marriage," Jacob said. "It only promotes discrimination."
The Rev. Bruce Taylor of the Spanish Springs Presbyterian Church of Sparks said that he and his church believe marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman, but that he opposes Question 2.
"Whose marriage will be endangered if Amendment 2 is not adopted? No one's. The purpose of Amendment 2 is nothing but a spiteful censure of good people," Taylor said.
Dave Ward, a Reno businessman who's married with three children, said he thinks the day is coming when U.S. society will embrace the same rights for gays and lesbians.
"They [supporters] call Question 2 protection of marriage. That's ludicrous," he said. "It's about protecting the status quo that denies same-sex marriage and other rights [to gays and lesbians]. The change is coming and it's coming fast. Never doubt it."
Republican Eddie Anderson of Reno also urged defeat of Question 2, saying it's divisive and "demonizes those who live outside the religious mainstream."
After the speeches, the crowd lighted candles and joined in a closing prayer.
Harold Ballinger, head of the Stonewall Democrats chapter, said opponents are encouraged by polls that show support for Question 2 has declined since 2000.
A statewide poll in July conducted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper and reviewjournal.com found that 55% of those responding supported recognition of marriage only if it is between a male and a female, 38% opposed the proposal, and 7% were undecided.
The Stonewall Democrats of Southern Nevada plans to hold a similar candlelight vigil in Las Vegas this month.