weather icon Clear

Domestic partnerships to be law

CARSON CITY — Only a handful of spectators watched Sunday night as the Assembly voted 28-14 to override Gov. Jim Gibbons’ veto of a bill that establishes a domestic partnership law in Nevada.

That vote, with the state Senate’s 14-7 rejection of the veto Saturday, makes Senate Bill 283 a law that takes effect on Oct. 1.

Under the new law, same-sex and opposite-sex couples can go to the secretary of state’s office, sign a registry, pay a fee and secure a domestic partnership contract that essentially gives them the same legal rights and responsibilities as married couples.

Domestic partnerships, or civil unions, are not the same as same-sex marriages, which are now legal in five states. A constitutional amendment approved by Nevada voters in 2002 specifies that a marriage can be between a man and a woman only.

Domestic partners do not need to solemnize their unions under the law but are free to choose to do so if they want. Employers are not required to offer medical and other benefits to domestic partner couples but may do so if they wish.

“I’m immensely pleased that the veto of the governor has been overridden,” said state Sen. David Parks, the sponsor of the bill. “It’s a great day for fairness and equality in Nevada.”

Unlike the emotional debate that took place in the state Senate, only Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, made a speech on SB283 in the quiet Assembly chambers.

“This is the most important civil rights legislation we’ve had in all my years in the Legislature,” Leslie said. “It is an issue of fairness for our citizens.”

In overriding the veto, two Assembly members, Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, and Jerry Claborn, D-Las Vegas, cast affirmative votes. The two did not vote for the bill when it was approved 26-14 last month in the Assembly. Claborn was absent for the first vote, and Kirkpatrick voted no.

All 28 Democratic Assembly members except Assemblyman Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, voted to override the veto. Of the 14 Republicans, only Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, backed the override.

Kirkpatrick declined to give reasons for changing her vote.

Goedhart said he backed the bill because it was the right thing to do.

“I don’t consider this bill to be marriage,” he said. “It is nothing more than a domestic partnership. It provides equality.”

Harrah’s Entertainment had lobbied legislators to reject Gibbons’ veto of the domestic partner bill.

The gaming company and other resorts had feared that gays and lesbians, who have $700 billion in disposable income, might boycott Nevada if the bill were rejected.

Tod Story, a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center in Las Vegas, expects thousands of couples will become legal domestic partners.

“This is an historic day for Nevada, a remarkable and amazing day for equality and the recognition of civil rights of domestic partners,” he said.

During the state Senate debate, Parks said that senior citizens in particular could benefit from domestic partnerships.

“Our state is a haven for opposite-sex senior citizens who have retired here,” said Parks, who is the only openly gay legislator. “Many of these folks have lost their previous spouses and often meet a second individual with whom to spend the balance of their lives, but do not wish to marry.”

With the partnerships, similar to civil unions, couples can make decisions about wills, inheritances and health care for each other.

Gibbons remains opposed to domestic partnerships, but his spokesman said he believes the overrides were a good example of the proper functioning of government.

“In vetoing the bill, the governor stood up for what he believes in,” said Daniel Burns, Gibbons’ communications director. “The Legislature took up for what it believed in. The system worked the way it was supposed to work.”

Burns said Gibbons, who signed a bill prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of one’s sexual orientation, does not oppose same- or opposite-sex couples securing all rights and responsibilities but did not consider the bill necessary.

Gibbons contended couples can secure the same rights through private contracts.

But Parks said such contracts could cost a couple more than $5,000 and might not stand up if challenged in court.

Contacted in Las Vegas, Richard Ziser, a conservative activist who led the drive for the constitutional amendment that specifies a marriage is between a man and a woman, said his supporters need to regroup and then decide on their next step.

“The legislators have kind of gotten away from the moral arguments that people have against the relationships that have been established in this law,” he said. “It is sad when votes get traded. I guess if they are going to deal away their consciences, that is their right.”

But Gary Peck, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, thinks Sunday will be a day to remember.

“This is a proud day in Nevada history,” Peck said. “With its override, our Legislature has put our state on the side of a growing movement seeking to honor this country’s promise that everyone of us is entitled to equal treatment under the law.”

The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada called the vote the most significant vote for equality and civil rights by the Nevada Legislature since ratification of women’s suffrage in 1914.

“The only way for our state to treat its citizens is as equals under the law,” PLAN lobbyist Jan Gilbert said.

“We know that each and every day, same-sex couples are harmed when our government tells them that their families don’t count, and today this will no longer be the case in Nevada.”

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson sentenced to prison
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trumps Strength is also a Weakness - Video
One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths — his ability to shape national narratives — is also a great weakness.
Tax the Rich Bus Tour makes a stop in Las Vegas - Video
The Tax the Rich Bus has stopped in Las Vegas as part of its summer tour. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
Trump aides heading to Nevada Basque Fry

Several current and former aides to President Donald Trump are headed to the annual Basque Fry, an event sponsored by former Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt.