On Tuesday March 26th the United States Supreme Court will hold deliberations on marriage equality, and at the same time, Nevada’s state legislature will hold a hearing to repeal Nevada’s anti-marriage language from our state’s constitution. PLAN state director Bob Fulkerson penned this blog with reflections on equality, how far we’ve come and where we’re going.
This Tuesday I’ll have the honor of witnessing the Supreme Court’s deliberations on marriage equality. It got me thinking about the progress we’ve all made in the march toward freedom for LGBT people in our country.
It’ll be 20 years in April since I traveled to the 1993 March on Washington for LGBT Equality. The Nevada contingent was mainly Las Vegans, but my friend and mentor Marla Painter (pictured) and I were part of the tiny northern contingent. After the march we gathered in Harry Reid’s senate office to ask him about LGBT rights. As I recall we mainly discussed AIDS policy and workplace non-discrimination. Three years later, Harry Reid was on the right side of history when he voted in favor of the federal Employment Non Discrimination Act, which lost by one vote.
The same year we marched on Washington, Nevada became the first state since the Supreme Court upheld the Constitutionality of state sodomy laws to repeal its “infamous crimes against nature” law, thanks to Sen. Lori Lipmann Brown’s courageous leadership ten years before the Supreme Court ruled Sodomy laws were unconstitutional.
One of the things I love about Nevada is that we are ahead of the pack when it comes to LGBT rights. We were the first of 13 states to pass enumerated hate crimes legislation (1995), but failed to include transgender individuals-which will be remedied in the current session. In 1997 we were the first of 11 states to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, again excluded transgender Nevadans. Full spousal benefits to same and opposite-sex unmarried couples were adopted in 2009, making Nevada one of eight states to have “marriage in everything but name only.” Finally, in 2011 legislation passed to include transgender individuals in workplace discrimination, public accommodations and housing.
Nevada’s had a rockier road when it comes to full marriage equality, overwhelmingly passing a constitutional ban in 2000 and 2002. Yet 11 years later, polls show Nevadans would vote down such a ban. And we are pushing hard for the Legislature to repeal marriage prohibition and allow all loving relationships to be fully recognized in the Silver State.
Back to that meeting with Harry Reid 20 years ago next month: His early support for LGBT equality closely mirrors that of Nevada. In 2004 and 2006 Harry Reid voted against the amendments to define marriage as between one man and one woman. (He voted for the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” in 1996, which passed the Senate with the support of 100% of the Republicans and about 2/3 of the Democrats.)
Last year he bucked the Mormon Church and declared his support for marriage equality. And last month, Senator Reid expressed support for including gay and lesbian families in comprehensive immigration reform. All Nevadans, especially LBGT Nevadans, have been damn lucky to have Harry Reid going to bat for equality.
So on Tuesday, 10 years to the day the Court heard Lawrence v. Texas, which simply made being gay legal, they’ll take up marriage. Between trying to replace my gazing daggers toward mean Justice Scalia with equanimity, all of these thoughts will be running through my head.
Regarding the case on Tuesday, we in Nevada have more to win or lose than folks in most other states. (Check out this nifty chart that explains How the Court Could Rule on Same-Sex Marriage.) One possible outcome in the case is the court could find that same sex marriage bans in Nevada and eight other states that allow “everything but marriage civil unions” are unconstitutional. (Actually, I wonder if the Times folks forgot to update their chart and need to add Colorado, which enacted a civil union law last week whose marriage prohibition could also be ruled unfair by the Supreme Court.)
The outcome of Tuesday’s deliberation is a very personal issue to me because the court could hasten or hamper the timing of when I get to marry my beloved Michael Perrier, my soul mate these past 7 years. Still, in the words of Tom Wilson Weinberg, there “ain’t no court supreme enough to keep me from my dreams.” The American public is solidly behind us on marriage equality. We’re never going back.
Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada