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With support for gay marriage growing, will Nevada cash in?

Could Nevada be ready to embrace gay marriage?

It might be more an open question today than it was 10 years ago, when voters twice went to the polls to amend the constitution to prohibit same-sex couples from getting married. Question 2 passed with better than two-thirds support in 2000 and 2002.

But a lot has happened since those elections. Five states — including Iowa! — have legalized gay marriage outright. The federal government has repealed the military’s 1993 “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning openly gay people serving in uniform. The 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act has been declared unconstitutional, and the Obama administration has decided it will no longer defend that law in the courts.

A series of polls have found American attitudes about gay marriage changing, with bare majorities in some polls not objecting to the practice.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released last week found 53 percent of people believed gay marriage should be “legal” while 44 percent said it should be “illegal.” An Associated Press poll conducted in August found 52 percent said the federal government should give legal recognition to same-sex marriages, while 46 percent were opposed. (In that same poll, 58 percent said same-sex couples should be entitled the same government benefits as married couples, while 38 percent said the government should distinguish between them.) And an August CNN poll found the country narrowly divided on the issue, with 49 percent saying gay and lesbian couples have the constitutional right to marry, while 51 percent said they don’t have that right.

The Pew Research Center has found that while 48 percent of Americans oppose gay marriage and 42 percent support it, the gap has been narrowing over the years.

In 1996, for example, 65 percent opposed it, while just 27 percent were in favor. Those results track with California’s experience: When a gay marriage ban first appeared on the Golden State’s ballot, as Proposition 22 in the March 2000 primary election, it passed 61.4 percent to 38.6 percent, with an additional 4.49 percent not voting. But when Proposition 8, the state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, went before voters in November 2008, it passed by a much narrower margin, 52.3 to 47.7 percent.

Then again, the trend isn’t all in favor of gay rights: Apple recently got in trouble when it approved an iPhone app produced by a group that seeks to “cure” gay people. (There really is an app for everything, isn’t there?)

According to the Washington Post-ABC poll, white evangelical Christians are among those who still strongly object to gay marriage. That’s understandable, as the Bible — in both Old and New Testaments — condemns gay acts. Then again, the Bible — in both Old and New Testaments — is sanguine about slavery, which we now see as the vestige of a bygone era. So can anyone justify his opposition to gay marriage based on the Bible without also acknowledged that slavery has biblical warrant and therefore should still be legal?

Some who favor legalizing gay marriage in Nevada — including many libertarian-leaning conservatives — favor it for economic reasons. If Nevada were to become America’s super-fabulous gay marriage mecca, we’d benefit from the fees, the travel, the hotel stays and the parties.

It’s a natural extension of the city’s existing tolerance, too. If we’re liberal enough to let pretty much any straight couple get married while drunk, we’ve got to be liberal enough to let real-life gay couples who actually want to honor the institution of marriage do it here.

So, is Nevada ready for gay marriage?


Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist, and author of the blog SlashPolitics.com. His column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at (702) 387-5276 or at ssebelius@reviewjournal.com.

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