By Ann Diggins
Local District Court Judge Archie Blake issued a temporary injunction preventing the gay rodeo from taking place in Fallon this weekend and an appeal of that decision to the state Supreme Court was denied in Carson City late Friday.
Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), representing both the owner of Stockman's Arena near Fallon and the Silver State Gay Rodeo Association, filed a last minute appeal late Friday afternoon almost immediately after Blake issued his order granting Churchill County's request to prevent the staging of the international gay rodeo this weekend at the private arena located four miles out of town.
However, Supreme Court justices denied the appeal, which claimed the attendance figures represented in Blake's order were erroneous and that the order violated the association's First Amendement rights to free speech and peaceable assembly.
Chief Justice Al Gunderson said this wasn't an issue of freedom of expression or of lifestyle as ACLU attorneys tried to argue.
Gunderson also said since the court didn't have the record of the lower court proceeding, the district judge is usually upheld in these cases.
The Supreme Court held a 45-minute hearing before issuing its order saying that there was nothing to show that Blake had overstepped his jurisdiction in prohibiting the rodeo.
Marc Picker, attorney for the ACLU and for the property owner, said during the Supreme Court hearing if the rodeo isn't held this weekend it will be postponed for one year.
Churchill County Deputy District Attorney Paul Drakulich said this case wasn't an issue of gay rights and that if any rodeo came to Fallon the same issues would be considered.
"They went behind the county's back" in leasing a private arena which was "totally unfit," Drakulich said.
Blake's order, which came after a four hour hearing in Fallon's Third Judicial District Court Friday, stated that Churchill County would suffer "irreparable harm" if the event was held as planned. Specifically, Blake said that the arena was "in no way a rodeo arena" and that the business license owner David Lantry has specifies only a "roping arena." The order also said that traffic control, animal control, emergency services, sanitation and site suitability should have "properly" been decided by the appropriate government agency, in this case the county.
Another problem the judge had with the event was the conflicting number of spectators organizers expected to attract.
Les Krambeal, president of the association, was quoted in the media and had told Churchill County officials and his own private security firm, that he expected 2,000 to 3,000 people. During his testimony Friday under cross examination by District Attorney Kevin Pasquale, however, Krambeal said he was "misquoted by the media" and expected only 500 to 600 people to attend.
After issuing his order, Blake set Oct. 26 at 10 a.m. as the time for a permanent injunction hearing on Churchill County's motion. ACLU attorneys had filed motions to intervene and a motion for a change of venue with the court early Friday. Blake said he would consider those within 10 days.
Picker said he planned to press the issue in Blake's court and, if successful, will seek damages against Churchill County. He said the association will lose $20,000 over the cancellation.
"We may have lost here but we'll seek recompense against Churchill County because we don't feel it's an issue of health, safety and welfare, it's an issue of lifestyle," he said.
The event has upset some Fallon residents and since Monday over 1,500 signatures were collected opposing the event that was to be held locally.
With wire reports