Nevada marriage hearing set
July 1st, 2014
A federal appeals court says it will consider Nevada’s gay marriage ban on Sept. 8.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has scheduled 20 minutes of oral arguments in the case of Beverly Sevcik v. Brian Sandoval. The court will also hear arguments that morning over similar cases in Idaho and Hawaii.
You may recall that Attorney General Cortez Masto and Governor Sandoval have pulled all state defense of the marriage ban, leaving only the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage to argue the case.
LGBT activist wins Nevada house nomination
June 13th, 2014
Lauren Scott is the executive director of Equality Nevada and a leading advocate for civil rights issues in the state. She is also a government consultant and serves on the Equal Rights Commission.
She is now also her party’s candidate for Nevada Assembly District 30.
The Republican Party, that is (gaystarnews)
Scott received 58% of the vote over rival Republican primary candidate Adam Khan who only received the support of 42% of party members.
Khan had been endorsed by the Nevada Republican Assembly but Scott received endorsement from Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval in her bid to be the candidate.
Sandoval appointed Scott to Nevada’s Equal Rights Commission in 2012 and she also helped found the group Equality Nevada.
Scott brings with her extensive military service and a devotion to the state. Scott had been a Democrat until 2011, but her passion for economic development and job creation – and the nature of Nevada politics – suggested that she’d be more effective as a Republican.
Should she win, she will make history. Lauren Scott will be Nevada’s first transgender legislator.
Nevada GOP drops anti-gay position
April 13th, 2014
Nevada Republican Party activists met this weekend at their annual convention. And it was a contentious meeting with factions battling over the endorsement process and what it means to be a “true” Republican.
What was not contentious, however, was the move to drop opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage from the state party platform. From the Washington Times (which I nearly never quote, but which seems to be carrying the story before anyone else):
The Nevada Republican Party stripped opposition to abortion and gay marriage from its platform Saturday as state convention delegates instead focused on judging fellow Republicans on their worthiness to serve in office and adherence to GOP values.
The platform, with few changes, was adopted overwhelmingly as the Las Vegas convention stretched late into the evening. The vote mirrors that of the Clark County GOP, which voted earlier to remove platform language defining marriage as between a man and a woman and statements opposing abortion.
Congratulations to Log Cabin Nevada and others who have been working for a long time on this issue.
UPDATE: The Washington Times has inexplicably dropped the story, it seems. But the Las Vegas Review-Journal gave the following detail:
By a show of hands, convention-goers adopted the platform as proposed by a separate committee without the two planks on marriage and abortion, following the Clark County GOP’s lead in removing hot-button social issues from the party’s statement of its principles. Some 520 delegates attended the convention, but less than half were present when the platform was adopted at about 7:30 p.m. Little debate preceded the vote, a far contrast to earlier in day.
State party Chairman Michael McDonald said it was a successful convention at the end of the day.
“I think it was about inclusion, not exclusion,” McDonald said, referring to the platform. “This is where the party is going.”
Republicans who sat on the platform committee said they decided not to deal with social issues this year because the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts have weighed in and it doesn’t make sense for the party of “personal freedom” to have the government or the political party get involved in people’s personal lives.
“The issue was how can we back out of people’s personal lives,” said Dave Hockaday of Lyon County, who sat on the platform committee. “We need to focus on issues where we can have an impact.”
Nevada Gov and AG pull state’s defense of marriage ban
February 11th, 2014
Although Nevada generally allows its residents and visitors a greater degree of personal freedom, it was the fourth state to pass a constitutional amendment disallowing gay citizens equal access to marriage.
In 2000, 70% of voters passed the following language: “Only a marriage between a male and female person shall be recognized and given effect in this state.” As Nevada requires two votes of the public to amend their constitution, it was brought back to the ballot in 2002, where it passed by 67%.
In 2012, several same-sex couples sued the state in Federal court, arguing that the ban violated the equal protections provisions of the US Constitution. On November 29, 2012, Judge Robert C. Jones, an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), denied the plaintiffs’ claims in Sevcik v. Sandoval, asserting that “a meaningful percentage of heterosexual persons would cease to value the civil institution as highly as they previously had and hence enter into it less frequently.”
The couples appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The named defendants were three county clerks and Governor Brian Sandoval (R). Sandoval is represented by the State Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D). Also given intervenor status was the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage, an anti-gay group.
In January, Cortez Masto filed the state’s defense before the Ninth Circuit. Many gay activists were angered by the Democrat’s language, which they believed compared homosexuality with bigamy and incest.
On January 21st, the Ninth Circuit issued it’s position on a jury selection case resulting from a dispute between two pharmaceutical companies. The result hinged on the court’s determination that gay civil rights cases are to be held to heightened scrutiny, a position that had, until then, been undetermined.
A few days later, Carson City District Attorney Neil Rombardo (acting on behalf of Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover) pulled his defense of the marriage ban. His opposition had been related to his fears of a slippery slope. But now that gay persons are affored legal status different from bigomists, polygamists, and the like, they were no longer on the same slope. (Las Vegas Review Journal)
Rombardo said Carson City’s initial concern was not that gay marriage should be banned, but rather that legal standards could have invited challenges to other state marriage laws, specifically prohibitions against polygamy.
“I did not oppose equal rights marriage,” Rombardo said. “I do oppose polygamy. I do not think they are one and the same.”
But the 9th Circuit’s decision in the SmithKline case essentially said that homosexuals are a protected class and that heightened judicial scrutiny applies in cases involving alleged discrimination, Rombardo said.
“Any concern I had regarding the previous analysis was gone,” he said.
Now the heightened scrutiny ruling has also caused the Attorney General Cortez Masto and Governor Sandoval to pull their support for the ban. (NY Times)
Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, in a motion filed with the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, said Nevada’s legal arguments defending the ban voters approved in 2002 are not viable after the court’s recent ruling that potential jurors cannot be removed during jury selection solely because of sexual orientation. “The state has determined that its arguments grounded upon equal protection and due process are no longer sustainable,” she said.
Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican seeking re-election this year, said he agreed.
“It has become clear that this case is no longer defensible in court,” Mr. Sandoval said in an email to The Associated Press.
This leaves the defense of Nevada’s ban solely in the hands of the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage.
The Ninth Circuit is likely to decide in the favor of the plaintiffs. However, in the Proposition 8 case, the Supreme Court ruled that private groups do not have standing to defend a state, so there is no one to take such a ruling to the Supreme Court.
So the most likely result is that marriage equality will come to Nevada, but that this will not be the case on which nation-wide equality is achieved.
Nevada AG Asks to Withdraw Brief Defending Marriage Ban
February 10th, 2014
Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is asking the Ninth Circuit Court to allow her to withdraw a brief that had been filed on behalf of Gov. Brian Sandoval defending the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. In the statement, Cortez Masto cited last month’s ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court which held that discrimination based on sexual orientation warrented heightened scrutiny. That ruling in an unrelated case concerning jury selection had a huge impact on Nevada’s arguments:
“After thoughtful review and analysis, the State has determined that its arguments grounded upon equal protection and due process are no longer sustainable,” Cortez Masto said in Monday’s statement.
BuzzFeed has asked a spokeswoman for Sandoval for comment on Monday’s filing. The Associated Press reported, “Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval says he agrees with the move, saying it’s clear the state’s arguments are no longer defensible in court.”
Eight couples are suing the state of Nevada in Federal Court challenging the state’s marriage ban. A Federal Judge granted Gov. Sandoval’s motion to dismiss in 2012. Lambda Legal has taken the case to the Ninth Circuit on appeal.
This latest move follows the earlier decision by Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover to ask to withdraw his brief for the same reasons. With both defendants out of the picture, it leaves the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage as the sole defender of the ban. The Coalition was allowed to intervene by the U.S. District Court. But with the U.S. Supreme Court last summer turning back the Prop 8 challenge because outside intervening supporters lacked standing, it would seem that Nevada is on the cusp of letting Elvises marry gay couples in Vegas.
ACLU Announces Three Marriage Lawsuits
July 9th, 2013
Fresh off its victory in Windsor v. U.S. which struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, the ACLU’s is filing three more lawsuits, in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia. In Whitewood v. Corbett, the ACLU is challenging Pennsylvania’s statute which bans same-sex marriage. In Fisher-Borne v. Smith, the ACLU will amend its lawsuit seeking adoption rights to include the right to marriage. In the Virginia case, the ACLU and Lambda Legal are still in the planning stages, with plaintiffs and precise details of the case still being worked out. They expect to file that lawsuit later this summer.
Meanwhile, the ACLU and the National Center for Lesbian Rights have filed a motion with the New Mexico Supreme Court, asking it to order state officials to allow same-sex couples to marry. State law is currently silent on the question. Other lawsuits are working their way through Arkansas, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey and Michigan.
Nevada House votes to reverse marriage ban
May 23rd, 2013
In 2002, the voters of Nevada voted by a two-thirds majority to amend their constitution to limit marriage to heterosexuals. But attitudes shifted and in 2009 – amidst heavy lobbying from the casinos – the legislature passed an all-but-the-name domestic partnership bill.
Last month, the state Senate became the first legislative body to vote for the repeal of an anti-gay marriage amendment when Republican Senator Ben Kieckhefer (R – Carson City) joined eleven Democrats to support Senate Joint Resolution 13. Today the House followed suit. (LVRJ)
Senate Joint Resolution 13 passed the Assembly on a 27-14 vote, bringing the process to get it to the ballot in 2016 to an end for this year. All the no votes were Republicans.
It must pass again in identical form in the 2015 legislative session before it could go to the ballot. Gov. Brian Sandoval’s signature is not required.
The proposal would remove Nevada’s current prohibition on same-gender marriage from the state constitution, and add new language recognizing same-gender marriage.
It also includes a provision to guarantee that religious organizations do not have to perform such unions.
Rep. Michele Fiore (R – Las Vegas) joined 26 Democrats in finalizing the first step of the repeal process.
Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, spoke in support of the measure.
“When we started this floor session, I introduced my mother to this body, proudly,” she said. “What is currently in our constitution does not allow her to get married. You see, my mom is gay. I love my mom with all my heart, and I am who I am today because of her guidance, influence and how she raised me.”
With the rapid pace of change in popular opinion, a 2016 vote seems almost certainly to favor equality.
A poll conducted by the Retail Association of Nevada earlier this year found that 54 percent of voters want the state constitutional ban on gay marriage repealed, while 43 percent want it to stay in place.
Nevada Assembly Committee Hears Marriage Equality Bill
May 10th, 2013
An effort to rescind Nevada’s voter approve constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and replacing it with a law providing marriage equality began its long, two year process last month when the state Senate voted 12-9 to approve Senate Joint Resolution 13. The resolution then moved to the Assembly, where the Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections held hearings on the bill late yesterday. One new voice in support of the resolution was Michele Fiore (R-Las Vegas), who calls herself a “Tea Party Conservative who sticks to her guns.” She testified for the bill:
“My mom is gay,” Fiore said. “My two daughters and I are not. My mom is a Democrat. My two daughters and I are strong Republicans. I am who I am today, because of the guidance and upbringing of my mom who is gay.”
After three hours of testimony, the committee took no action. It will be brought back again for another working session. If the resolution passes the lower house, it will have to pass both houses again in 2015 before it can be sent to voters.
Nevada Senate Approves Repeal of State Marriage Ban as Senator Comes Out During Debate
April 23rd, 2013
Late last night, the Nevada Senate voted 12-9 to approve Senate Joint Resolution 13, which would repeal the state’s constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman, and replace it with a provision requiring the recognition of all marriages between two people “regardless of gender.” One Republican, Sen. Ben Kieckhefer (R-Carson City), joined eleven Democrats to support the measure, which marks the first time a state legislative house voted to repeal a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
The vote came after more than an hour’s debate which saw Catholic marriage equality supporter Sen. Ruben Kihuen (D-South-central Las Vegas)) say that he would support marriage equality even though “I don’t know if I’ll be allowed in church on Sunday.” Mormon marriage equality supporter Sen. Justin Jones (D-Southwest Las Vegas) cited his gay brother-in-law, who he sees in church every Sunday. “I would rather lose an election than look my brother-in-law in the eye every Sunday and tell him he doesn’t have the same rights as I do,” he said. But the most dramatic moment came when Sen. Kelvin Atkinson (D-North Las Vegas) declared publicly for the first time that he was gay:
“I’m black. I’m gay,” Atkinson said in a trembling voice after describing his father’s interracial re-marriage that would have been banned earlier in American history. “I know this is the first time many of you have heard me say that I am a black, gay male.”
Atkinson went on to rebut the argument that gay marriage threatens any other definition of marriage.
“If this hurts your marriage, then your marriage was in trouble in the first place,” he said.
The resolution now goes to the Nevada Assembly. If it passes the lower house, it will again have to pass both houses in 2015 before being sent to voters.
Nevada begins marriage ban repeal process (updated)
April 11th, 2013
Nevada joins Oregon in beginning the process of repealing their constitutional amendment restricting marriage to heterosexuals. (Sun)
[Senate Judiciary] Committee Chairman Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, says there are enough votes for Senate Joint Resolution 13 to clear both the committee and the full Senate. Some Republicans are supporting the measure, he said.
The resolution being considered would repeal [the anti-gay marriage] ban. It would have to be approved by this Legislature and again in 2015 and then be put on the 2016 ballot.
Governor Brian Sandoval (R) has stated that he supports the state’s everything-but-the-name domestic partnerships law but believes marriage should be between one man and one woman. However, based on his history of support, I expect that he will evolve on this issue in the near future, likely before the referendum. His support is not needed to put the repeal on the ballot, but would be useful in the campaign.
SJR13 was approved Thursday on a 3-2 party line vote by the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections. It now goes to the Senate floor.
The original language sought only to repeal language in the state Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
But a late amendment adopted by the committee adds that the state “shall recognize marriages and issue marriage licenses, regardless of gender.”
I hope that Equality Nevada knows what it’s doing. While I’d much prefer to eliminate the step of having to come back to the legislature for a confirmation of marriage after the ban is repealed, I hope we don’t lose support by this revision.
I hope they have done a good vote count, as in committee they did lose one affirmative vote, along with the very important ‘bipartisan’ label.
Republican Sen. James Settelmeyer of Minden says he would have voted for the original bill, but he withdrew his support because he doesn’t believe marriage should be in the Constitution.
That Anti-Gay Double Standard
December 4th, 2012
The National Organization for Marriage is thrilled with a Nevada judge who ruled that banning same-sex marriage does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. NOM’s chairman writes:
In stark contrast to the findings of a rogue judge in California who himself was engaged in a long-term homosexual relationship, the federal court in Nevada has quite properly found that true marriage serves an important public purpose and is entitled to protection.
I’ll pass over the hilarious notion that a judge who wasn’t overturned by the Ninth Circuit Apellate Court is somehow “rogue.” I’m more interested in that side comment:
…who himself was engaged in a long-term homosexual relationship…
You know what he’s implying. Judge Walker had a personal stake in Prop 8, which compromises his ruling. You can certainly dispute that, but for the sake of argument, let’s accept NOM’s principle and apply it to Robert Clive Jones, the Nevada judge whom NOM so deeply admires. What do we find?
- Robert Clive Jones is Mormon who is active in the church.
- Robert Clive Jones is married to a woman.
Personally, I have no problem with that. But NOM? Oh my gosh. If NOM is true to its principles then it ought to be in full repudiation mode against the man.
NOM, you see, holds that marriage equality is a threat to religious freedom. It’s probably their central argument these days. And Mormon religious leaders have said the same, and have done so more than once.
This means that as an active Mormon, Jones has a personal stake in the ruling — according to both NOM’s standards and those of his church. Obviously, then, NOM should issue an ad hominem fatwa against him, just as they did against Judge Walker.
No? Not enough?
Then how about this: NOM holds that same-sex marriage is a threat to “traditional” marriage, and Jones is “traditionally” married. In fact, you can find some of this sentiment in Jones’ own ruling:
Should [marriage] be expanded to include same-sex couples with the state’s imprimatur, it is conceivable that a meaningful percentage of heterosexual persons would cease to value the civil institution as highly as they previously had and hence enter into it less frequently…
“Conceivable”? I suppose it is, at least in the sense that anything you can describe in words is “conceivable,” in the sense that it’s conceivable North Korea actually has discovered a medieval unicorn lair, but still, we’re not basing our judicial rulings on the possibility.
This conceivable notion is so implausible I have to wonder why Jones considers it “meaningful.” Could it be that Jones is worried he’d value his own marriage less if marriage equality were made law? Once again, there’s a personal interest, a reason for NOM to reject his ruling.
This is all ludicrous, of course. And that’s the point. We let black judges rule on civil rights cases. We let women judges rule on birth control and abortion cases. We let devout judges rule on religious freedom cases. And we let gay judges rule on same-sex marriage cases.
But NOM screams STOP at that last example. Not that NOM has anything against gays. There’s no anti-gay double standard at work. Surely not — NOM is just standing by its principles. Principles they only want to enforce against, well, gays.
A Same-Sex Marriage In 1877
August 15th, 2011
[Homer Thiel is a Tucson-based historical archeologist, genealogist, and a good friend of mine. An article he wrote, "An 1887 Same-Sex Marriage In Nevada," appears in this month's issue of American Ancesters, published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Copies of the magazine can be purchased for $4.95 plus shipping by calling 888-296-3447. And you can check out the day-to-day happenings in Homer's World at his blog.]
Opponents of same sex marriage would like everyone to think that the desire for gays and lesbians to marry their partners is a very recent phenomenon. A while ago, when I was reading through 19th century Arizona newspapers, I came across a cryptic mention of a same sex marriage that took place in 1877 in Nevada. Further research revealed the fascinating life story of Sarah Maud Pollard, who, as Samuel M. Pollard, married in Tuscarora, Elko County, Nevada Territory to Marancy Hughes on September 29, 1877. An article I prepared on Pollard has just appeared in American Ancestors magazine, published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society. A condensed version of Pollard’s life story is presented here.
Sarah Pollard was born in 1846 in New York, the daughter of a middle class merchant family. After working in a shoe factory in Massachusetts and sewing shirts in New York, she headed west to Colorado in the 1870s. She caused a stir because of her masculine appearance. Around 1876 she moved to Nevada and took up wearing male clothing in order to find work and she started calling herself “Sam.” She met young Marancy Hughes, born in 1861 in Missouri, and actively courted her. Hughes’ family hated Pollard and the couple eloped on September 28, 1877.
They were happily married for six months, and then Marancy broke the secret. The small silver-mining town of Tuscarora, Nevada was transfixed by the story. The matter ended up in court and after Marancy testified, a dramatic re-union took place. Stories about the troubled marriage were carried in newspapers across the country (even appearing in a New Zealand paper). The couple broke up two more times, before Marancy moved on to a marriage with a man in 1880.
Sarah moved to Minnesota to start a new life by 1883, working by herself on a farm. The story of her successful farming career again made national newspapers, which noted she wore a bloomers-type outfit while plowing. By the 1890s she had met a woman named Helen Stoddard, a schoolteacher who was born in 1864 in Vermont. In later census records Helen was listed as her partner or companion. Sarah died in 1929, and Helen paid for her arrangements at a local funeral home, the owners puzzling over the relationship of the two women.
The stories of gay and lesbian Americans prior to recent times have largely been lost or hidden. Within my own family, a lesbian great aunt has been “straightened up.” Sarah Pollard is an unusual case in that is has been easy to locate information on her unconventional life in late 19th and early 20th century America. Like thousands of modern-day Americans, she wanted to marry her same sex partner. Her first relationship failed, large because she took on a masculine role, a major taboo of the time. Later she returned to feminine attire, while taking up a typically masculine career, and settled into a second, long lasting partnership with Helen Stoddard.
Defender Of Non-Monogamous Marriage To Retire
March 7th, 2011
Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) has announced that he won’t run for re-election in 2012. This announcement comes almost two years after the “sanctity of marriage” advocate sanctified his own marriage by having an affair with a staffer. The staffer’s husband also worked for Ensign’s Senate Staff. Moneys changed hands, possibly in an attempt to keep the whole thing quiet. That possibility is the subject of a Senate Ethics Committee probe.
In 2004, Ensign spoke from the Senate Floor in favor of the proposed “Federal Marriage Amendment,” which would have written discrimination against gays and lesbians into the U.S. constitution. He insisted the amendment was necessary, saying, “Marriage is the cornerstone on which our society was founded.”
Today, with no apparent awareness of the concept of irony, Ensign gave this reason for retiring: “At this point in my life, I have to put my family first,” Ensign told reporters at a news conference in Las Vegas.
Ensign was identified as a member of the “C” Street, also know as “The Family” or “The Fellowship.” The secretive group was found to have links to the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill that had been proposed in Uganda’s Parliament.
Couple recognition, state by state
December 1st, 2010
Upon the governor’s signature, Illinois will become the second state that is currently offering civil unions to same-sex couples. The status of the various recognition mechanisms is as follows:
Marriage on the same terms as heterosexual marriage – 5.1% of US Population:
District of Columbia
Civil Unions – a rights except the name – 7.1% of US Population:
Domestic Partnerships will all the rights except the name – 16.3% of US Population
Limited recognition of same-sex couples – 6.2% of US Population
Hawaii – Reciprocal Benefits
Colorado – Reciprocal Benefits
Wisconsin – Domestic Partnerships
Maine – Domestic Partnerships
Maryland – Domestic Partnerships
In addition, the states of Maryland and New York (6.4% of US Population) will give full recognition to same-sex marriages conducted where legal. Rhode Island may possibly do so also (it’s a bit uncertain) and offers unregistered Domestic Partnerships with a scant handful of rights.
Also, there are dozens of cities offer some form of recognition and protection for same-sex couples.
Las Vegas Church May Drop Support for Ugandan Anti-Gay Pastor
October 26th, 2010
Conservative Evangelical professor Warren Throckmorton, who has been a stalwart opponent to the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill that continues to linger in Uganda’s Parliament, received a message from Las Vegas-based Canyon Ridge Christian Church indicating that after several months’ delay and excuse-making, are considering dropping their financial support for Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, one of that country’s most ardent supporters of the proposed bill. The statement has also been posted on Canyon Ridge’s web site with a prominent link on the front page:
Because of the current controversy in Uganda over the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and because of Pastor Ssempa’s involvement in the support of the bill, we have been in regular communication with him to clarify his positions and opinions. While we have come to understand that Pastor Ssempa advocates for an amended version of the Anti-Homosexuality bill that removes the death penalty and reduces other severe penalties, he is still supports passage of this bill.
We, however, do not support him in this effort.
We are in the process of determining how we can redirect our support in Uganda to activities specifically related to addressing HIV/AIDS issues.
It is still unclear exactly what this statement means. Will they continue to provide financial assistance for Ssempa’s work in “HIV/AIDS issues” while condemning the passage of the anti-gay bill? As I read it, that scenario could conceivably fit within the parameters of this statement. But it’s also worth noting that while Ssempa’s profile on Canyon Ridge’s web site is still accessible, the link to it from the Global Partners page has been removed and replaced with a link to the statement.