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Domestic Partnerships and Same sex marriage (SSM) in Nevada

Part 3: 2013-APR: Assembly takes first step
towards legalizing same-sex marriage

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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2013-MAY-09 & 10: Assembly committee passes Bill SJR 13:

The Assembly's Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections held hearings on the SSM bill. 1 Some persons testifying against marriage equality had complained that they were given inadequate time in front of the Senate Committee to present their case properly. Committee Chair James Ohrenschall (D) decided that their testimony would be heard first, to be followed by the testimony of others who favor marriage equality.

Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, (D) said:

"The chairman and I worked to make sure that the opposition went first this time because the story was that they didn’t get enough time [to testify in the Senate]." 2

Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Chairman James Ohrenschall (D) placed a very stringent time limit of two minutes per person on all testimony. However, emailed testimony was accepted until 5 PM the following day.

The tesimony lasted for over three hours and was often very emotional. Many of the opponents of SSM were concerned about their religious freedom. These are not the traditional religious freedoms of belief, assembly, practice, proselyzing, etc. Rather it is the new and emerging meaning of "religious freedom:" the freedom to use one's religious beliefs to denigrate, oppress and discriminate against others. There have been a few events in many of the states that allow same-sex marriage in which individuals and companies have run afoul of human rights legislation. They have refused to provide services and products to engaged same-sex couples who were about to marry. Nevada has a public accomodation law that already bans private businesses from discriminating against potential customers on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientations, etc:

Nevada Revised Statute #NRS 651.070 states:

"All persons entitled to equal enjoyment of places of public accommodation.  All persons are entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity or expression." 3

In those states that allow SSMs, wedding photographers, wedding cake bakers, owners of halls suitable for a wedding receptions, etc. have occasionally refused to provide their services to an engaged same-sex couple who wish to marry. Occasionally, the couple will lay a charge before their state's human rights tribunal. Many religious conservatives feel that individuals and companies providing services to the wedding industry should be exempt from human rights legislation and should be free to discriminate against same-sex marrying couples if the business owners personally find SSM to be religiously offensive.

David Matthews commented that the word "marriage" has traditionally:

"... been interpreted to mean between a man and woman. These other types of interpersonal relationships need to be defined by another name other than the word 'marriage'."

A representative from the Nevada Live Stock Association addressed sodomy laws. He said:

"To do this and pass this bill to make other people feel equal [to opposite-sex marriage couples] I think is wrong."

Another critic of SSM felt that attaining marriage equality would indicate that "we are devolving" as a species. 2

Still another suggested that marriage equality would lead to an increase in sexually transmitted infections. 4 He was undoubtedly not referring to the incidence of STIs among lesbian couples, because they have a significantly lower rate of STIs than do either gay or heterosexual couples. Marriage equality should result in a change in the incidence of STI because marriage by a loving, committed same-sex couple would become an attractive alternative for many gays and lesbians who would favor marriage over the single lifestyle. The latter often involves many sexual partners over time. To be in a monogamous committed married relationship should significantly lower the rate of STIs.

As of the evening of the day of the hearings, 2,100 people had sent in comments to the Legislature's public comment system. About 1,200 favored the bill, while about 900 were opposed.

The Joint Resolution of the Senate and House, SJR 13, would remove the clause in the constitution that currently says:

"... only a marriage between a male and female person shall be recognized and given effect in this state."

and replace it with the clause:

"... shall recognize marriages and issue marriage licenses to couples, regardless of gender."

The replacement clause is somewhat ambiguous, when applied to transgender persons and transsexuals beause there are different definitions of gender in use:

  • Religious and social conservatives generally identify them according to their birth-identified gender. Thus a male-to-female transgender person (MTF) is considered a male.

  • Religious and social liberals, the LGBT community, therapists, counselors, etc. generally identify them according to their self-identified gender. Thus a male-to-female transgender person (MTF) is considered a female.

The resolution also states that:

"religious organizations and clergy have the right to refuse to solemnize a marriage and no person has the right to make any claim against a religious organization or clergy for such a refusal."

Senator Patricia Spearman (D) who is also a clergyperson and is openly lesbian said that:

"Marriage in this country and in the world is steadily evolving."

She described the history of marriage in the West, and how it has been changing. She noted that a few decades ago in 1967 interracial marriages that were banned in some states became permitted everywhere in the U.S. by an action of the U.S. Supreme Court. 2

Committee Chairperson James Orenschall called for a vote to advance the bill out of committee. The results of the vote do not seem to be recorded anywhere on the Internet. It did pass, and we assume that it was along along party lines with all or almost all Democrats in favor and all or almost Repubilcans opposed.

It then proceeded to the full Assembly.

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2013-MAY-23: Full Assembly passes Bill SJR 13 by a wide margin:

The bill passed with a vote of 27 to 14. 26 Democrats and one Republican -- Michele Fiore -- voted for the bill. Ms. Fiore has a lesbian mother.

The same resolution will be reintroduced during the next session -- probably in 2015. Only then could a referendum be scheduled to be voted upon, probably in 2016-NOV. By then, if current rates hold, the margin between public's support and opposition will probably have widened by another 10 percentage points, so its passage would be almost certain.

However, an election will be held in 2014. If the Democrats lose their majority in the Assembly or Senate, then passing the bill a second time would be essentially impossible.

The Legislative Counsel's Digest describes the bill as follows:

"Section 21 of Article 1 of the Nevada Constitution provides that only a marriage between a male and female person may be recognized and given effect in this State. This resolution amends that provision to require the State of Nevada and its political subdivisions to recognize all marriages, regardless of gender. This resolution gives religious organizations and clergy the right to refuse to solemnize a marriage and provides that no person has the right to make a claim against a religious organization or clergy for refusing to solemnize a marriage. This resolution further provides that all legally valid marriages shall be treated equally under the law." 6

SJR 13's text is:

"RESOLVED BY THE SENATE AND ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF NEVADA, JOINTLY, That Section 21 of Article 1 of the Nevada Constitution be amended to read as follows:
[Sec:] Sec. 21. [Limitation on recognition] Recognition of marriage. [Only a marriage between a male and female person shall be recognized and given effect in this state.]
1. The State of Nevada and its political subdivisions shall recognize marriages and issue marriage licenses to couples, regardless of gender.
2. Religious organizations and clergy have the right to refuse to solemnize a marriage and no person has the right to make any claim against a religious organization or clergy for such a refusal.
3. All legally valid marriages shall be treated equally under the law.
"

Text in bold is new. Text that is [within brackets] is deleted. 6

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2013-JUN-04: Legislature finalizes SSM bill:

Although the regular session of the Legislature ended at Midnight on the evening of JUN-03, legislators still had a few bills that had not been fully processed. Governor Brian Sandoval (R) ordered a special session to wrap them up. One of the bills finalized was SJR-13. 7

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SJR 13 now lies dormant until 2015

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Senate Joint Resolution #13," 2013-MAR-18, at: http://openstates.org/
  2. Andrew Doughman, "Gay marriage debate shifts to Assembly, where committee hears fervent testimony," 2013-MAY-09, at: http://www.lasvegassun.com/
  3. "Chapter 651 - Public Accomodations, Nevada state, at: http://www.leg.state.nv.us/
  4. Jacob Combs, "Nevada Assembly committee considers pro-marriage equality ballot measure," Equality on Trial, 2013-MAY-10, at: http://equalityontrial.com/
  5. Brian Duggan, "Bills on marriage, DNA win approval," RGJ.com, 2013-MAY-25, at: http://www.rgj.com
  6. "Nevada Senate Joint Resolution 13," LegisCan, 2013-MAY-24. at: http://legiscan.com/NV/text/SJR13
  7. Sandra Chereb, "Nevada lawmakers pass 5 bills in special session," Associated Press, 2013-JUN-04, at: http://www.myfoxny.com/

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First posted: 2013-MAY
Latest update: 2013-AUG-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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