Thursday, August 21, 2008

Conn. marriage foes seek initiative rights -- Queer Lesbian Gay News --

Conn. marriage foes seek initiative rights -- Queer Lesbian Gay News --

published Wednesday, August 20, 2008
A coalition of same-sex marriage opponents and taxpayer groups is trying to persuade voters to approve a state constitutional convention in the hopes of bringing the initiative petition process to Connecticut.
Connecticut voters will be asked Nov. 4 whether to hold a constitutional convention. Under the state constitution, the question goes on the ballot only every 20 years.

The Family Institute of Connecticut wants a system of direct initiative -- in which people can petition to get issues onto the ballot -- because it hopes voters will eventually pass a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Other groups involved in the campaign have other concerns, such as eminent domain and taxes.

So far, though, the Connecticut Constitution Convention Campaign has raised only $1,110.

Meanwhile, the state's largest teachers union, the Connecticut Education Association, has contributed $40,000 to the group "Vote No: Protect Our Constitution." Planned Parenthood of Connecticut has given $5,000 to the same cause, according to filings with the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

Matthew Daly, of Glastonbury, who is heading the convention campaign, said he's not worried yet about being grossly outspent.

"Our fundraising has been slow, which kind of goes hand in hand for this time of year," he said. "I'm not surprised. If we're where we are by the end of September, then I will be concerned."

If a majority vote yes in November, a convention will be held consisting of people appointed by the General Assembly. There, advocates can recommend that the state change its constitution to allow citizens to petition issues onto the ballot, such as a tougher three-strikes-and-you're out law for violent felony offenders.

Twenty-four states have the initiative petition processes allowing citizens to place proposed new laws or constitutional amendments on the ballot, according to the Initiative & Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California.

Daly's coalition hopes to raise enough money to buy newspaper, radio and television ads, explaining the importance of including direct initiative in the state constitution. He believes it's an issue people will support.

"I think we have a winning issue," he said. "The question is reaching as many people as we can."

Anne Stanback, president of the group Love Makes A Family, said her group -- which supports same-sex marriage -- is urging people to vote no, and plans to contribute money to the effort.

She fears voters will be misled into thinking a constitutional amendment will lead to real change.

"It's the legislators who will be deciding who the delegates are," Stanback said. "They will be the ones who decide what questions get raised in the convention and if anything happens at all."

Kathy Frega, a spokeswoman for the Connecticut Education Association, said the Legislature should be focusing on educational improvement instead of a convention.

"The state constitution works, and there's already a procedure in place to amend it without holding a taxpayer-funded convention," she said.

Groups that already have influence at the state Capitol, such as the education association, are among those most worried about a constitutional convention, Daly said.

"There's no question this is an insider-versus-outsider campaign," he said. "I'm not surprised by those who are opposing us. They want to control our legislature." (Susan Haigh, AP)

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