May 17, 2013
A Nevada Assembly committee voted yesterday to advance a constitutional amendment that would allow same-sex couples to marry in the state, setting it up for a full vote in the chamber sometime this session.
Yesterday’s vote in the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee came down along party lines, with all seven of the committee’s Democrats voting in favor of Senate Joint Resolution 13 and all three Republicans voting against it.
The Nevada Senate approved SJR13 by a 12-9 vote in late April, and the Assembly vote–which is expected to succeed–will be the final legislative consideration of the bill this session. As we noted when the legislature first took up the bill, the amendment has a long path ahead of it before Nevada couples will be allowed to marry:
“The amended bill will have to be approved by both houses of the Nevada legislature during the current session and again during the 2015 session, and then placed on the 2016 ballot as a constitutional amendment. If Nevada voters approve the amendment, the marriage equality ban currently in the state’s constitution would be removed and replaced with language inclusive of same-sex couples.”
One Republican Senator voted in favor of SJR13 when the upper chamber considered the bill. Democrats hold a strong 26-15 majority in the Assembly.
The proposed constitutional amendment, which is being spearheaded by the ACLU and the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, is not the only push to bring marriage equality to the Silver State: Lambda Legal, an LGBT legal advocacy group, is currently pursuing a federal lawsuit, Sevcik v. Sandoval, challenging the state’s refusal to offer marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The suit contends that Nevada’s laws, which provide same-sex couples with domestic partnerships but not full marriage rights, violate the equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment. In its complaint, Lambda Legal wrote that Nevada’s laws subject the suit’s plaintiffs “to the inferior and novel status of registered domestic partnerships, and has disrespected the marriages some of them have entered in other jurisdictions, because they are lesbians and gay men in same-sex relationships.”
A federal district court judge upheld Nevada’s marriage equality ban last November; that decision has been appealed to the Ninth Circuit. The case is currently on hold until the Supreme Court issues a ruling in the Proposition 8 case out of California, which also falls under the Ninth Circuit. The Sevcik case has also been appealed–unsuccessfully, so far–directly to the Supreme Court by the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage, which is defending Nevada’s marriage equality ban.