Monday January 11, 2010

Judge Throws out Nevada Personhood Referendum

By James Tillman

CARSON CITY, January 11, 2009 ( – Last Friday, a Carson City district judge threw out a proposed personhood Nevada ballot initiative on the grounds that the measure was too vague and violated the single-issue requirement for ballot initiatives. The measure would have permitted voters to amend the state constitution by defining ‘person’ to apply to every human being in Nevada, from conception.

Olaf Vancura of Personhood Nevada said that the judge’s ruling would be appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court.

The pro-life ballot initiative had originally been filed on October 21, 2009. The ballot text says the amendment would define as a person “everyone possessing a human genome specific for an individual member of the human species, from the beginning of his or her biological development, without discrimination as to age, health, reproduction method, function, physical or mental dependency, or cognitive ability.” On November 21, attorneys from Planned Parenthood and the ACLU filed a lawsuit claiming that the proposed referendum does not meet the requirement that a referendum pertain only to one subject and that it fails to warn voters of the possible effects of the amendment.

A similar personhood referendum in Colorado, however, has been ruled to meet the single-subject requirement and not to be misleading. Olaf Vancura stated on Friday that the “notion that this proposed Amendment violates the single-subject rule is absurd. This initiative is the epitome of a single subject.”

“The Personhood Nevada language is simple enough that a child could explain it to an attorney.”

Nevertheless, according to the Associated Press, District Judge James Russell said that the issue was too broad and general, and did not adequately inform “voters on what they’re voting on.”

“There’s no way for the voter to understand the effects of the initiative,” he stated.

“Judge Russell is being disingenuous,” responded Gualberto Garcia-Jones, legal analyst for Personhood USA. “There is a very simple way for the voter to understand the effect of the initiative, namely, read the 200 word description that immediately follows the 14 word ballot text. That 200 word description includes: ‘This amendment codifies the inalienable right to life for everyone, young or old, healthy or ill, conscious or unconscious, born or unborn.'”

Lee Rowland, an ACLU attorney, had also argued that the initiative would have a vast impact and be “making thousands of direct changes” to state law.

Addressing this argument, Olaf Vancura stated that “what makes this argument spurious is that this [the initiative] is a civil rights initiative by and for the people of Nevada. Civil rights initiatives, by their nature, tend to have non-trivial scope. For it is their intent to correct an injustice and to recognize rights that heretofore have been wrongly withheld.”

“Perhaps most importantly, under the logic and precedent of this decision, ANY civil rights initiative brought forth by the people of this great state will be struck down as overly broad, hence not a single subject.”

He concluded: “It is especially for this particularly sinister reason that we must appeal this erroneous decision. We will appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court not only because the judge erred, but for the future of democracy in Nevada.”

See related stories on

Pro-Life Groups Oppose Nevada Personhood Amendment

Planned Parenthood and ACLU Sue to Block Nevada Personhood Initiative

Nevada Launches Personhood Initiative