Domestic Partnerships in Nevada?
May 15, 2009
A state news story that hasn't gotten a lot of play... the Nevada legislature is considering a bill to establish domestic partnerships for same-sex couples, although the Governor has pledged a veto. To get us all up to speed, here is a guest post from Steve Amend, a member of HRC's Board of Governors from Nevada. A vote is expected sometime in the next few days. UPDATE: Gay rights bill advances; Gibbons plans veto (Las Vegas Sun)
Nevada Senate Bill 283 (Nevada's domestic partnership bill) is now in its final stages in the state legislature. The domestic partnership bill would create a state-recognized relationship for same-sex and different-sex couples, providing access to most of the rights and responsibilities currently available to spouses. After passage in the Senate and its expected passage in the Assembly next week, Nevada's Governor Jim Gibbons has vowed to veto the bill based upon what he says are his libertarian beliefs that the government should stay out of people's personal relationships. (Of course, the government has already made the decision to regulate personal relationships through the hundreds of legal rights and responsibilities provided to married couples). To give a little history, Nevada passed a constitutional amendment in 2002 stating that only a "marriage between a man and a woman" will be recognized in the State of Nevada. At that time, the proponents of the amendment said it would only affect marriage, and would not preclude legislation allowing for domestic partnerships or civil unions. Now, the same people are speaking out against the domestic partnership bill, and are citing the constitutional amendment as a basis for arguing that that the people of Nevada are against any bill that creates relationships similar to marriage. Last month, over 80 attendees converged on Carson City, Nevada's capital, to lobby state legislators on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community as part of Nevada's Equality Days. This was the first ever statewide LGBT-specific lobby day in Nevada. Coincidentally, the Senate took final debate on the domestic partnership bill during Equality Days. As the lobby day attendees watched from the balcony, we witnessed our senators debate the importance of recognizing our relationships. The final vote was 12-9 in favor of passage, and included bi-partisan support. Those voting against the bill argued that it either conflicted with the intent of the constitutional amendment or that it was against their religious beliefs. This month, two committees in the state Assembly considered and passed the domestic partnership bill. The bill is set to be voted on by the full Assembly sometime in the next few days. It must be passed by the Assembly by May 21 in order for the bill to remain alive. We are working hard to secure the two-thirds majority that would ultimately be needed to override the Governor's threatened veto. Recently at a Governor's Town Hall in the very small and conservative Incline Village, NV, HRC's Northern Nevada Political Co-Chair David Gordon asked about the domestic partnership bill. Governor Gibbons replied that the protections sought in the bill could already be achieved through private contracts. As David shook his head no, the governor replied, "Don't shake your head no! I am an attorney. I know. Are you an attorney?" Of course, the reality is that private contracts cannot provide all the rights made available to married couples. Private contracts cannot exempt partners from inheritance or property transfer taxes, they cannot grant partners the right not to testify against one another in court, they cannot provide alimony rights, child support, or child custody rights when couples split up (all rights that are extended to spouses). On a less tangible, but equally important level, private contracts can never provide same-sex couples the dignity and respect afforded to married couples whose relationships are formally recognized by the state. A coalition of statewide LGBT and LGBT-friendly organizations have been strategically working together to pass the domestic partnership bill. This highly coordinated cooperation has never before been seen in Nevada. The state has changed quite a bit since the passage of the constitutional amendment earlier this decade. Nevada is ready for a change. I am hopeful that we will be able to win enough votes in the legislature to override the Governor's veto. However, if we don't, it is very likely that a pro-equality candidate will be elected Governor in 2010, paving the way for passage of pro-equality legislation then, if not sooner.
May 18, 2013