The emotion and tension inside the legislature building was reflected in many young couples’ faces on Tues. as they sat side by side, some holding hands throughout the meeting as one by one, as community leaders and citizens testified to show their support for same-sex marriage.
Earlier this morning, the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections received testimony on Senate Joint Resolution 13. This legislation proposes to eliminate 18 words from the Nevada Constitution that specify that “only a marriage between a male and female person shall be recognized and given effect in this state.” Despite the limited number of words, the significance behind them became clear by the emotion in the room as 37 people testified in support of SJR 13, including Sen. Tick Segerblom, Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, Assemblyman James Healey and Assemblyman Elliot Anderson.
All of those who testified in support of SJR 13 were received with respect, but it was 11–year-old Dalia Zaki who received a round of applause after her statement.
Dalia is the daughter of Dr. Salwa Zaki who has worked for 17 years in public education, and she testified about how her parents’ inability to get married affects her.
“Do you have any idea how many times I hear ‘that’s so gay’ and kids calling each other ‘fags’ and ‘lesbos’ in middle school,” Dalia asked during testimony. “It’s always used as an insult, even if kids don’t know what it means. I have to make the choice several times a day to either speak up or remain silent, knowing [that] if I speak up I risk being insulted or even [becoming a victim of] physical violence.”
Sen. Mark Manendo, co-chair of the committee, asked Dalia as she finished speaking, “Have you ever heard the phrase ‘you knocked it out of the park?’”
Though the support for SJR 13 was larger in number, those who opposed the bill testified passionately as well; sparks repeatedly flew between those opposed and committee members. Several times during testimony Sen. Pat Spearman, chair of the committee, asked for evidence of claims to be given to the committee or the claims would be omitted from the record.
The meeting came to a close due to time constraints after more than two hours of hearings. Sen. Kelvin Atkinson gave the closing remarks to the meeting before the legislators rushed down to the Senate Chamber for the floor session.
“I just want to be honest and real about this,” Atkinson said. “It’s time to stop playing politics with other people’s lives and let people decide what to do with their lives and mind our own business.”