Wrapup: ACLU Works With Eagle Forum

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - An unlikely duo made for an effective
lobbying team in the 2009 Nevada Legislature, with the American
Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and the conservative Nevada Eagle
Forum showing, once again, that politics makes for strange
bedfellows.

Throughout the session, the two groups teamed up on bills that
addressed election laws, warrantless wiretapping, privacy issues
and freedoms of speech. And after the session, lobbyists from both
groups credited each other with helping advance their agendas.

"I know we turned a lot of heads in the hallway, because we'd
be sitting together in a cluster of chairs, and we had people walk
by and almost break their necks," said Lynn Chapman, lobbyist for
the Nevada Eagle Forum. "But we worked very well together, and I
think it was advantageous because of all we accomplished. They were
fantastic."

The groups worked together to defeat SB52, the "Real ID" bill
which would have brought Nevada into compliance with a federal law
that's aimed at making it tougher for terrorists, illegal
immigrants and others to get official identification. The ACLU had
called the bill "Orwellian."

The bill had sat on the Senate Secretary's desk for months, and
then resurfaced for a vote on the next-to-last day of the session.
When they found out, both groups agreed to send out e-mails to
their memberships calling for action, and lawmakers' electronic
inboxes were flooded with pleas from gun advocates, conservatives
and civil libertarians.

"It would have forced the state to be connected to a national
database, and all the states would have been hooked up to the
federal government, and that's scary in itself," Chapman said.
"It goes beyond anything we should really want our government to
have access to."

Chapman said she regularly e-mailed and called the ACLU
lobbyists to coordinate efforts, exchanged information when they
attended different hearings, and updated each other when lawmakers
committed to a vote.

"There was just tons of stuff we worked together on this
time," Chapman said.

Rebecca Gasca, public advocate for the ACLU of Nevada, said she
wasn't surprised that the two groups came together since both
groups work to protect the interests of the individual, using the
U.S. Constitution as a medium.

"It was really neat to see how there are individuals who may be
on the opposite sides of the spectrum, but we can come together on
some issues," Gasca said. "I think we helped fend off some bad
public policy."

The two groups weren't always on the same page. When a bill was
introduced to bring Nevada in line with the Equal Rights Amendment,
which never passed in Nevada, the Nevada Eagle Forum warned members on its Web site, and called the measure "the newest threat to Life and Family."

The two groups also held opposite views on SB283, the bill which
granted rights to domestic partners, which Chapman said the Eagle
Forum opposes because it's viewed as allowing same-sex marriage.

But when the Assembly voted on the domestic partnership bill,
Chapman said she was in the gallery watching and tried to quickly
write down all the votes, but didn't get them all. She noticed ACLU
attorney Lee Rowland, who worked passionately to get the domestic
partnership bill passed, was doing the same thing.

Even though they were on opposite sides of the issue, they fell
into their usual routine of counting votes together and helping
each other out.

"It's not about being rude to each other, we were helping each
other," Chapman said. "Families are hurt by a lot of liberties
that are stolen or evaporated, and I believe the ACLU feels the
same way when it comes to liberties."

In the end, they respected and helped each other, and all said
they had fun along the way.

"People would see us in the hallway together and say, 'Uh oh,
there's trouble,"' Gasca said. "We liked to ruffle feathers
together. Definitely."
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On the Internet:
http://www.nevadafamilies.org/
http://www.aclunv.org/


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