Repeal of gay union ban in Nevada no small task

Opponents of same-sex marriages are not fearful that the California Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday will sway Nevada residents who twice voted to prohibit the unions.

Organizations pushing for the legalization of gay marriages would have to amend the state constitution, a task that Richard Ziser, a vocal opponent of same-sex unions, called a “large undertaking.”

“It would require another constitutional amendment being on the ballot twice,” said Ziser, chairman of Nevada Concerned Citizens, who led the charge years ago to add to the state constitution a law that prohibits gay marriages.

“Conceivably you could do that if you wanted to, but I don’t see it now. No one has said they are interested in doing that.”

Ziser pointed out that Nevadans twice voted overwhelmingly to prohibit gay unions. In 2000, 70 percent of voters agreed to amend the constitution to ban the marriages; in 2002, 67 percent of the voters supported Ziser’s initiative.

Nevada is one of five states in the country with such language in the constitution.

“Obviously we did the right thing,” Ziser said. “It’s much more difficult to overturn.”

In California, the same-sex marriage ban that the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional was simply a state statute. Voters there will have an opportunity in November to amend the state constitution, which would override the court’s historic ruling. As of now, California and Massachusetts are the only states that recognize same-sex unions.

Candice Nichols, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada, said the California decision might offer incentive to gay residents in other states, including Nevada.

“It’s definitely not over yet (in California), but it’s an amazing, amazing victory,” Nichols said. “I think if we continue to see this kind of trend and we do see other states passing this, we could pick up that fight down the road, but who knows where it will go.”

The language written into Nevada’s constitution three years ago says the state will not recognize a same-sex union between two people who move here from another state where such a marriage was performed.

The California Supreme Court said the state will allow same-sex unions in 30 days, a decision Ziser said is a mistake. Ziser said the court should hold off on the marriages until voters have their say in November.

In 1994, the Hawaii Supreme Court also ruled that banning same-sex unions is unconstitutional, but held off recognizing the marriages until an initiative appeared on the ballot. Hawaiian residents ultimately voted to ban the unions.

Nichols said she hopes California voters will support the Supreme Court’s decision in November.

“That their commitment to their families finally offer them the same opportunities as other Californians is a victory,” she said.

Contact reporter Adrienne Packer at apacker or 702-384-8710.

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