Churchill County Residents May Vote On Prostitution Ban

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Leaders of a group that wants to outlaw prostitution in Churchill County say they have enough signatures to put an initiative on the November ballot.

The Coalition to Keep Brothels Out of Churchill County said they would deliver petitions containing 1,200 signatures to the county clerk on Friday to force a vote on the matter.

County Clerk Gloria Venturacci has 20 days to determine if there are 743 valid signatures on the petition. The number of signatures represents 10 percent of registered voters who voted in the 2002 election.

Elizabeth Earl, who spearheaded the petition drive, told the Lahontan Valley News she wanted to gather plenty of names to ensure the ballot question moves forward.

If adequate signatures are verified, a question will appear on the November general election ballot asking:

"Shall Chapter 5.20 of the Churchill County Code be repealed in order to end legalized prostitution in Churchill County?"

The county's brothel ordinance, which was approved by 57 percent of voters in 1974, allows two brothels to operate outside Fallon's city limits. County zoning dictates where they can be located.

Earl said she believes voters will agree with her that brothels are a blight on the community and inconsistent with the core morals and values of the people who live here.

"I have to say I think it will pass. I don't know if the vote was held today if it would pass but we are planning an information campaign," Earl said Thursday.

She said yard signs and printed material will be used to get the committee's views out to the community. Donations will pay the cost of materials during the campaign, she added.

Earl said she struggled with the legal prostitution question and whether to get involved until she read a story about former prostitute Maggie Holmes in the Lahontan Valley News.

"It was clear that this is not something she would have gone into if it was not legal," Earl said. "It may not harm me directly or my family but there are people in the community who are hurt."

Churchill County can license two brothels according to the ordinance.

Currently there are no operating brothels in the county because James Kopulos, who operated Salt Wells Villa 15 miles east of town, surrendered his license May 5.

"With Salt Wells out of the way there is nothing to stop someone else from coming in and opening a sex for sale business in our community," Earl said.