Arizona activists have been reeling for the past several weeks over an attempt by two men, without the support of any established rights groups, to get a “Civil Partnership” initiative on the ballot in 2010.
The measure crafted without the input of civil rights attorneys, attempts to grant all 1138 federal, state, and local rights in a few short sentences. The wording is fraught with ambiguity and a lack of understanding of the most basic concepts of our legal and lesgislative process.
Indeed, most LGBT rights groups who have had their attorneys review it conclude that the initiative could be disastrous both in the short term and long term due to its ignorance of law and culture.
However, it is not entirely surprising the legislation does not take into account our unique legal structure here in the United States. It’s major backer has been Gino Meriano of Pink Weddings, LLC.
Meriano is a British citizen who opened a branch of his “gay wedding” business in the United States in 2008.
This PR stunt was particularly ironic in light of his stated goal upon immigrating to the US: “Our mission is to support those organisations in the USA fighting for same-sex family rights and to introduce the concept of federally recogonised civil partnerships across all the states of the USA.”
Shortly after the launch of their two man crusade, they began collecting donations to support their cause.
In the first days after their initiative was registered and the signature gathering could begin, they seemed more concerned with raising money than actually laying out their case. Emails and calls from private citizens and LGBT groups asking for details about how their claims of altering federal law with a state statute would work, went unanswered.
Instead, their websites, of which there are several, pointed people to a PayPal donation page. Surprisingly, this donation page did not lead to a registered PAC, but instead directly to Gino Meriano’s business account for Pink Weddings, LLC.
After there was a bit of buzz around the state about this fact, the email address on the PayPal account quickly changed. However, it is impossible to know where the money may be going at this point.
In recent days, several community activists have stumbled upon previously unknown information about Gino Meriano that has alarmed them.
Tourism PRO Gino Meriano has been jailed for nine months for false accounting whilst employed by Kuoni Travel.
Guildford Crown Court heard last week how the 39-year-old PR manager swindled tour operator Kuoni out of around £160,000 worth of holidays over a four-year period.
Meriano, of Chertsey in Surrey, pleaded guilty to 16 charges of false accounting and was sentenced to nine months in prison.
In July, Sharon O’Brien, prosecuting, told Redhill Magistrates’ Court that between 1997 and 2001 Meriano had embarked on a spree of fraud that was premeditated and involved fictitious journalists.
Could it be that this is a different Gino Meriano? That is always a possibility, though both the Gino Meriano who committed a crime and the Gino Meriano who became an “activist” lived in Surrey and are the same age. In fact Meriano’s office is located at 15 Church Street, Weybridge Surrey.
Certainly, this new information makes this ballot initiative even more chilling for the community.
We asked Philip Cotton, Meriano’s associate on the ballot initiative for his comment about this information via email. We received the following response:
You will need to refer these allegations to Mr. Gennaro [sic] Meriano. Thank you for keeping me in the loop.
A request for comment, clarification or denial from Gino Merriano has yet to elicit a response. We wrote to him at his personal email address, provided by Philip Cotton explaining this post would go forward at 4:00pm MST and asking for a comment or clarification before that time. We have not received any response whatsoever at this time.