CARSON CITY — The state Senate on Saturday delayed a final vote on a bill to prevent job discrimination against transgender people as members engaged in a testy argument before adopting what on the surface appeared to be an innocuous amendment.
With approval of the amendment, a state Senate vote Monday should be conducted on Assembly Bill 211, which already had passed in the Assembly. The bill would prevent employers in companies with 15 or more workers from discriminating against employees on the basis of gender expression or identity.
Gender expression or identity is described in the bill as a “gender-related identity, appearance, expression or behavior of a person, regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth.”
But employers may require employees to “adhere to reasonable workplace appearance” standards under the bill.
Following the Saturday session, Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, said he thought he had enough support in the 21-member state Senate to pass the bill.
Three Republicans and all 26 Democrats in the Assembly backed the bill, which would make Nevada the 13th state with a law to prevent job discrimination against transgender people.
But it is not clear yet whether all 11 Democrats in the state Senate will vote for the bill. Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, would not give his position Saturday.
During the floor session, Parks won approval for an amendment that prevents employers from discriminating against people based on their “sexual orientation.” A law prohibiting such discrimination was passed in 1999, but the Assembly bill mistakenly had omitted reference to that provision.
Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, irritated state Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, when he began talking about how the bill offered transgender people “a super right of expression” beyond what is afforded to all people. Horsford contended Hardy should not address the contents of the full bill, but only of the amendment under discussion.
Then Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, who serves as president of the state Senate, ruled Hardy could continue speaking because the amendment also mentioned the words “gender expression.” In an interview, Hardy said “expression” commonly means speech, and that he was worried that the bill would prevent an employer from disciplining employees who gave views on religion and other subjects while working.
He also mentioned that businesses such as Disneyland dictate to employees what they can say and how they dress, but questioned if similar constraints would be possible in Nevada under AB211.