Domestic partners

Let's clear up a few misconceptions.

Senate Bill 283 does not subvert the will of Nevada voters who twice supported a constitutional amendment to outlaw gay marriage.

It doesn't allow same-sex couples to marry.

It doesn't redefine the traditional definition of "marriage" as being between a man and a woman.

It changes none of that.

Instead, SB283 simply allows unmarried couples -- whether gay or straight -- to register as domestic partners in order to receive a few common-sense protections now currently enjoyed only by married men and women.

For instance, it provides unmarried couples -- again, either gay or straight -- with some legal rights regarding community property and the responsibility of debts. It also provides them with rights regarding hospital visitation and the like.

It's a compassionate, fair, rational bill that in no way upsets the established order but instead strengthens it.

On Saturday, the Nevada Senate voted 14-7 to override the governor's veto of SB283. Two Republicans -- Dennis Nolan, R-Las Vegas, and Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora -- switched their previous votes.

Sen. Nolan said he changed his mind after reviewing Nevada's 2002 constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage and noticed that, "There was no mention about prohibiting benefits granted to all citizens including those in domestic partnerships. ... I believe in my heart that I'm doing the right thing."

Sen. Rhoads noted that the bill would also help many unmarried straight couples who cohabitate later in life."It isn't marriage," he said. "It's a domestic relationship."

Late Sunday, the issue shifted to the Assembly, which had previously passed the bill, 26-14, with two members absent. The chamber needed 28 votes to circumvent the governor's objections -- and barely mustered precisely that amount.

Critics of SB283 argue that passage of the measure pushes us closer to legalizing gay marriage. It does not -- barring major changes in the Nevada Constitution. In fact, most people will not notice any changes in their day-to-day lives now that SB283 will become law, given that unmarried couples could already achieve some of these protections by signing binding contracts.

SB283 is hardly radical -- it's just a matter of fairness.