Legislators took the first step toward legalizing same-sex marriage in Nevada.
Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, introduced a Senate Joint Resolution that would repeal the section of Nevada's constitution that says "only a marriage between a male and female person shall be recognized."
The repeal would start the lengthy process by which Nevada could legalize same-sex marriage. The resolution needs to pass by majority vote in the Legislature this year and again in 2015 before it would be placed on the 2016 ballot. If the majority of voters in Nevada decide to repeal the marriage definition, then the Legislature could act in 2017 to legalize same-sex marriage in statute.
Vanessa Spinaloza, lobbyist for the ACLU, worked with Segerblom on the resolution and said she's confident that a majority of legislators support the repeal.
A measure that would simultaneously repeal the ban on same-sex marriages and replace it with language allowing same-sex marriages draws less support, she said.
"There's a little fear that if we did that, we wouldn't get the whole thing," she said.
"Repeal is all we need right now," Segerblom said. "It gives it to a vote of the people."
The issue is also before the U.S. Supreme Court, which will decide the legality of California's Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage.
Numerous Democrats in both the Senate and the Assembly have sponsored or co-sponsored the resolutions. No Republicans have yet signed on.
Stacy Shinn of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, another group that has worked on the resolution, said she may introduce an amendment to Segerblom's measure to both repeal the prohibition on same-sex marriage and replace it with language legalizing same-sex marriage if PLAN believes the majority of legislators would vote for full legalization.
"The time is right for marriage equality, and it would benefit us if we moved quickly," she said. "It's coming, and we might as well get on the train."
Beyond the equal rights arguments for legalizing same-sex marriage, Shinn said Nevada could reap the benefits of same-sex marriage tourism.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitor's Bureau is already marketing specifically to gay and lesbian couples. Adding weddings to the mix could be an economic boon for Nevada.
"We're already a huge destination for weddings anyway," Shinn said. "If we could expand to the LGBT community, we would benefit."
Nevada voters approved the same-sex marriage ban in 2000 and 2002.
Richard Ziser of Nevada Concerned Citizens helped pass the ban and said Monday that same-sex couples already have domestic partnership rights in Nevada.
"They want the recognition and acceptance of getting married," he said. "That's where the battle lines get drawn. If they (legislators) want to do the heavy lifting for the homosexual community, they'll have to face voters two years from now."
While the ballot measures 10 years ago won by wide margins, a poll from the Retail Association of Nevada last month shows support for same-sex marriage and repeal of the "Protection of Marriage" clause in the state constitution.
The poll asks respondents "would you favor or oppose removing the Protection of Marriage provision from the Nevada Constitution? Removing this provision would allow same-sex couples to legally marry in Nevada."
The poll states that 54 percent of Nevadans favor repeal while 43 percent oppose. Nearly all Nevada demographics support the repeal language with only the population older than 65 opposed, according to the poll.
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