Nevada a Step Closer to Marriage Equality

by NATASHA VITALE

Yevonne Allen, left, and Meredith Tanzer said they have followed the Nevada Legislature's gay marriage debate. / Marilyn Newton/RGJ

Yevonne Allen, left, and Meredith Tanzer said they have followed the Nevada Legislature’s gay marriage debate. / Marilyn Newton/RGJ

Many people filled the Nevada Assembly chambers on Thursday as a resolution to repeal a same-sex marriage ban in Nevada passed 27-14, bringing the state one step closer to marriage equality.

Senate Joint Resolution 13 requires that all marriages be treated equally under the law and removes gender from the definition of marriage. It also specifies that religious institutions can choose not to marry couples of the same gender.

Reno residents, Meredith Tanzer, 42, and Yevonne Allen, 28, have followed the measure closely during this session.

They are engaged to be married, which they would be able to do in Nevada if the resolution is adopted by the Legislature again in the 2015 session and is voted into law by Nevadans in 2016.

For them, this resolution is about equality and being allowed the same rights that heterosexual couples would receive.

“I just happen to be a girl who fell in love with a girl,” Allen said. “I still want that storybook ending where I sweep her off her feet and walk down the altar. I don’t want anything weird or abnormal. I want the standard American life.”

“I want her to have access to my 401(k), I want her to be able to decide what happens to my body when I leave this place,” Tanzer added. “We could have that storybook life without any paperwork, but it’s the rules and regulations around it that make it a greater commitment.”

Five legislators are among the Nevadans who are personally affected by SJR 13 and a few of them spoke on the Assembly Floor about what this measure means to them.

Assemblyman James Healey, D-Las Vegas, became emotional when he spoke about his partner, Eddie, who passed away three years ago in a motorcycle accident.

“I stood up at Eddie’s funeral and I promised his mother and his family that I wouldn’t stop fighting until we had this,” Healey said. “I placed an HRC (Human Rights Campaign) flag in his hand in his casket and told him that we will make this happen and I will do it with your strength.”

Assemblyman Elliot Anderson, D-Las Vegas, voiced his support as an ally for this legislation, saying that equality was of the uttermost importance.

Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, was the only Republican who voted yes on SJR 13, citing her mother who is gay and also, her belief that the decision belongs with the people as her reason for voting in support.

“I choose to give this choice back to the people,” Fiore said. “When we started this session, I introduced my mother to this body proudly. What is currently in our constitution does not allow her to get married, because my mom is gay. I love my mom with all of my heart and I am who I am today because of her guidance, influence and how she raised me.”

Only two members of the Assembly spoke out during the floor session to say why they were voting no on the resolution.

Assemblyman Cresent Hardy, R-Mesquite, said: “I believe that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God — that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”

“My respect for others and their beliefs do not cause me to abandon my commitment to the truth which I understand,” Hardy said.

Assemblyman Paul Anderson R-Las Vegas also spoke out against the resolution.

“I have family members who are gay and they are welcome and beloved members of our family,” Anderson said. “With that, I see the argument on both sides. I am sensitive to those arguments and have some internal conflict as to what the appropriate role that government has in the case of who can and cannot get married.”

Despite opposition arguments, the resolution was adopted in the Assembly and brought Nevada closer to being able to vote on the issue of marriage equality so couples like Tanzer and Allen can potentially get married without having to go to another state to do it.

“We’ve been denied our civil rights, equality under the law and we’re being treated as second-class citizens,” Assemblyman Andrew Martin, D-Las Vegas, said. “This is our opportunity as a body to set this correct.”

This article was also published here through our journalism partnership with RGJ Media



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