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Assemblywoman says she’s pansexual in floor speech

Updated March 29, 2021 - 1:43 pm

CARSON CITY — With the legislative session nearly halfway over, lawmakers in Carson City last week continued their bill introduction spree, including legislation on safe injection sites, another push to abolish the death penalty and more.

But the week that was featured more than just a bevy of bill introductions.

On Thursday, Assemblywoman Sarah Peters, D-Reno, took to the Assembly floor with a very personal message, publicly announcing that she was pansexual. People who identify as pansexual are attracted to people of all sexes and genders.

Peters said in an interview Friday that she hasn’t considered herself to be closeted about her sexuality, but said she wasn’t sure if it was her place to speak on it in part because she is in a hetero-normative relationship with a husband and children.

But she realized that she could use her voice and public position to help support others in the LGBTQ community, she said.

“I have so many friends in the queer community who feel like their identities limit them from their expression of self in the public,” Peters said. “And as a lawmaker, someone who is in the public eye, it was an opportunity to come out and support those communities who feel like they’re underrepresented or don’t have somebody to look at and say ‘Hey, I can do that too.’ ”

“Yesterday, saying it out loud, in a very public forum that was recorded into history, there was liberation in that. That I no longer have to dismiss that part of me in my day-to-day life,” Peters added. “Not that it really impacts how I walk through the world, but knowing that I’m authentically true and honest with the world was a relief.”

A day after coming out on the floor, Peters was in front of the Assembly Government Affairs Committee to present Assembly Bill 280, which would require all single-occupancy public restrooms be gender-neutral. The bill was praised by civil rights activists as a step toward making people who are transgender or nonbinary or those with disabilities feel more comfortable and safer in public areas.

Equal rights in the constitution

Lawmakers in both the Senate and Assembly this week approved Senate Resolution 8 for the second consecutive session, legislation aimed at amending the state constitution to ensure equal rights are guaranteed regardless of gender, race, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, ancestry or national origin.

The resolution passed the Senate 18-3 and the Assembly 30-12, with some Republicans joining every Democrat in both chambers in support. The resolution will now go before Nevada voters in the 2022 election.

Sen. Pat Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, gave an impassioned speech on the floor of the state Senate on Tuesday ahead of the vote, describing a lifetime of bias she has faced due to her race, gender and sexual orientation.

“When you stop and you take a look at my lived experience through the lens of my life, you know exactly why I support the [Equal Rights Amendment],” Spearman, who is Black and gay, said in her speech. “If you can comprehend what it means to have to fight every day of your life to be recognized as equal, if you understand that, you know why we should vote yes.”

Spearman also led efforts to have Nevada adopt the federal Equal Rights Amendment, an effort that is tied up in legal battles.

On the criminal justice front, lawmakers in the Senate Judiciary Committee heard Senate Bill 212, a bill sponsored by Sen. Dallas Harris, D-Las Vegas, that would require police officers to use de-escalation techniques before resorting to deadly force in most circumstances and would put tighter parameters on how police could respond to protesters.

The bill comes in response to the protests last summer over the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody, and is one of several policing reform bills being pushed by Democrats this session.

As for next week, when the session will cross the halfway mark, here is a look at some of the notable bill hearings on tap:

Monday

The Assembly Judiciary Committee hears Senate Bill 400, which would change the rules regarding operating a vehicle and other offenses while under the influence of marijuana.

The Assembly Ways & Means Committee hears Assembly Bill 86, which would expand the conditions under which a person or entity can be sued for the costs of putting out a fire, including wildfires.

The Senate Education Committee hears Senate Bill 194, which would set up a state Seal of Civics program awarded to students who have demonstrated high proficiency in civics.

Tuesday

The Assembly Judiciary Committee hears Assembly Bill 393, a wide-ranging criminal justice reform bill that includes revisions on pre-sentence investigations, parole and probation.

Assembly Bill 406, also before the committee, would withhold gambling winnings from people who owe child support.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hears Senate Bill 164, which would exempt victims of human trafficking from prosecution for sex crimes.

Wednesday

The Assembly Government Affairs committee hears Assembly Bill 313, which would change rules for the election and removal of officers of HOAs or other common-interest communities, among other changes.

The same committee also hears Assembly Bill 336, which would require new state standards for law enforcement officers to receive annual mental health assessments.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hears Senate Bill 236, which addresses police training, procedure and potential police bias, including the establishment of intervention programs to monitor officers who display signs of bias.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead @reviewjournal.com. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter. Contact Capital Bureau reporter Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.

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