Assembly committee hears support for legalizing gay marriage

CARSON CITY — Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, on Thursday added her voice in support of a proposed constitutional amendment that would let voters decide whether to legalize gay marriage, saying her mother is gay and cannot marry the person she loves.

Fiore testified in support of Senate Joint Resolution 13, which seeks to remove a provision of the state constitution defining marriage as being between a man and a woman and would add new language recognizing same-gender marriage.

Fiore said she is the person she is today because of her mother’s guidance.

“Family to me is everything,” she said.

The proposed amendment would have to pass the Legislature twice, this session and again in 2015, before going to the voters in 2016.

The measure already has passed the Senate on a 12-9 vote, with all Democrats and one Republican in support. It is expected to win support in the Assembly as well.

Also speaking in support at the hearing before the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee were several other lawmakers, including primary sponsor Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, who said the measure is both a civil rights and economic issue in Nevada, where marriage is big business.

Gay lawmakers Sen. Pat Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, and Assemblyman James Healey, D-Las Vegas, also testified in support.

Parks said the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender communities want one thing: “full equality.”

The proposed amendment includes a provision to guarantee that religious organizations do not have to perform same- gender unions.

But there is opposition to the proposal as well.

Richard Ziser, who led the effort to win voter approval of the protection of marriage amendment in 2002, said in his written testimony that religious liberty would be threatened by the new amendment.

“First Amendment rights, freedom of conscience and religious liberty would be in constant tension with a newly created right to same-sex marriage,” he said.

Several other witnesses testified both in favor and opposition to the measure in a hearing that lasted more than two hours.

The committee did not vote on the measure.

In Minnesota on Thursday, a vote in the House there advanced the state toward becoming the 12th state in the nation to allow same-sex marriage.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900.