Senator Opposes Petition Proposed State Law Called `Gay-Bashing'

Article excerpt

Sen. John C. Danforth, R-Mo., is opposing an initiative petition drive in Missouri that calls for a ban on all state or local gay-rights laws.

Calling the proposal unconstitutional, Danforth said, "It will bring ridicule on the state of Missouri. . .It will be viewed as mean-spirited and gay bashing."

Danforth made his comments at a forum at Webster University on Wednesday night. He is the state's first major officeholder to take a position on the petition effort, which was organized by some conservative groups and some Republicans.

Supporters need about 125,000 signatures of registered voters to put the proposal on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Joining Danforth in condemning the petition drive was former Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton, a Democrat. Eagleton, also speaking at the forum, said the petition drive reflected "the current wave of ugliness" now sweeping parts of the country.

Paul Summers, a leader of the petition effort, said Thursday that such criticisms will carry no weight with the public.

Danforth, in particular, "doesn't know what he is talking about," said Summers, a businessman in Springfield, Mo. He heads the pro-petition group, called The Amendment Coalition.

But an opponent contended Thursday that the statements Wednesday - particularly Danforth's, as an incumbent and a Republican - were groundbreaking because few have spoken out on the petition.

"Our organization commends Sen. …