Robert Oliver and Mark Heller (R) hold hands, draped in flags, as they celebrated the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage on June 26, 2015 in West Hollywood, California. The Supreme Court ruled today that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry nationwide without regard to their state’s laws. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Nevadans this November will formally declare their support of (or opposition to) same-sex marriage with Question 2, the “marriage regardless of gender amendment.”
Regardless of the outcome, same-sex marriages will continue to be legal in Nevada and nationwide. That was decided by a landmark ruling by the United States Supreme Court in 2015. But the righting of a two-decades-old wrong will send an important message that solidifies LGBTQ rights in Nevada, say equality advocates.
Question 2 removes existing language in the Nevada Constitution that “only a marriage between a male and female person shall be recognized and given effect in this state.” It replaces that now-unenforceable language with new language stating that Nevada “shall recognize marriages and issue marriage licenses to couples regardless of gender” and “all legal valid marriages must be treated equally under the law.”
Nevada’s ban on same-sex marriages was enshrined into its state constitution by voters in the 2000 and 2002 general elections. In 2000, 69 percent of voters supported the ban on same-sex marriage. In 2002, 67 percent of voters did.
“We have seen certainly in the two decades since then that acceptance of same-gender marriage has almost done a total reversal,” said state Sen. David Parks, the state’s first openly gay legislator. “More than two-thirds of voters tend to support full marriage equality.”
“Hearts and minds have shifted,” added Briana Escamilla, Nevada State Director of the Human Rights Campaign. She referenced an 8 News Now/Emerson College poll conducted before the caucus earlier this year, which found that 75 percent of people polled would support a constitutional amendment recognizing marriages regardless of gender.
Escamilla believes a decisive victory for Question 2 will send a message that Nevada has zero appetite for anti-LGBTQ legislation in the future. The Human Rights Campaign is one of several organizations who’ve formed the “Yes on Question 2” coalition, which launched Wednesday. Others in the coalition include ACLU of Nevada, Silver State Equality and Battle Born Progress.
There is no declared opposition to Question 2 in Nevada.
Question 2 would also insert language into the Nevada Constitution that “religious organizations and members of the 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 member of the clergy for such a refusal.” That language was drafted to curb any opposition from religious groups that might feel their constitutional rights were being violated.
Despite having no formal opposition, Escamilla says the coalition isn’t assuming the win will come easily: “We’ll take nothing for granted.”
Efforts to repeal same-sex bans in other states have failed at the legislative level. According to NBC News, Republican lawmakers in Indiana and Florida have derailed efforts to repeal their unenforceable state bans on same-sex marriage.
Nevada’s Question 2 not only repeals the same-sex marriage ban, it enshrines marriage equality in the constitution, which would provide protections for Nevadans if Obergefell v Hodges was ever overturned.
“This is not just a measure that will rectify language,” said former Assemblyman Nelson Araujo. “It will also be a huge sign to every Nevadan, to every LGBTQ person, that no matter how many times we get hit, no matter how many times people try to beat us down, we will make sure we are protecting our communities.”
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