Las Vegas advocate praises gay marriage court decision

Lee Plotkin planned his day around the U.S. Supreme Court.

The longtime Las Vegas resident and equal rights advocate decided to work from home Wednesday so he could watch live as the court’s rulings on same-sex marriage were announced at 7 a.m. local time.

Plotkin’s interest is decidedly personal. He and his partner of 24 years, Robert Smith, were married at San Francisco City Hall in 2004 — one of about 4,000 same-sex couples issued marriage licenses over the course of about a month, before the California Supreme Court put a stop to the practice.

Wednesday’s U.S. Supreme Court rulings won’t change Plotkin and Smith’s legal status, but it is a “step in the right direction for the 37 states that don’t have marriage equality, including Nevada,” Plotkin said.

What gets him is how quickly those steps keep coming.

Just two decades ago, he and Smith joined the fight to get the Nevada Legislature to repeal the state’s archaic sodomy laws, which turned homosexuals into “de facto criminals.” Now the nation’s highest court has given its blessing to same-sex marriages in California and federal benefits for married gay couples everywhere.

“I never dreamed we’d get this far in such a short period of time,” Plotkin said.

He expects the high court’s decision — and changing public sentiment on the issue overall — to prompt more and more states to legalize same-sex marriage in the coming years.

“Any national poll you look at, public opinion has shifted as rapidly on this social issue as on any other social issue you can imagine,” he said. “I think it will reach critical mass. There will always be idiots, but we’re getting less idiots. That’s the good thing.”

Plotkin, 53, and Smith, 52, met through friends in Las Vegas and began dating in 1989. Their relationship grew the way many do, Plotkin said. “You get a house. You get dogs. The rest is history.”

The men are registered as domestic partners in Nevada, but they aren’t legally married anymore. The California Supreme Court invalidated their 2004 union after just a few months.

But that’s just a legal distinction. Regardless of what the courts say, Plotkin and Smith consider themselves husband and husband.

“I still have the certificate framed on our wall,” Plotkin said. “We did get married. They can’t unring a bell.”

Contact reporter Henry Brean at or 702-383-0350.

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