Tuesday, April 21, 2009 | 10:10 p.m.
CARSON CITY – On a 12-9 vote, the Senate has approved a bill to give gay partners the same legal rights as married couples.
The bill, which now goes to the Assembly, says domestic partners who file with the Secretary of State have the “same rights, protections and benefits” as granted spouses.
Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, said he has a legal opinion from the Legislative Counsel Bureau that the bill doesn't conflict with the constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2002 that only recognizes a marriage as between a man and a woman.
But Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, said there may be a legal challenge to the bill if it becomes law.
Before the vote, the Senate rejected an amendment by Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, to tone down the bill.
He called the bill one of the most “contentious” of this session.
His amendment would have permitted domestic couples to enter into a legal contract covering the right of inheritance and decisions over medical care and funerals.
But his amendment failed on a 10-11 vote.
Parks opposed the Raggio amendment, saying it would require an attorney to draft the contract, adding to the cost. And the amendment was “no different than what it is today.”
Washington and Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, both questioned language in the bill and whether the procedure constituted a marriage.
Senate Bill 283 provides that a domestic partnership would be on file with the Secretary of State, who would issue a certificate. The couple would certify they have a common residence; neither person is married or a member of another domestic partnership; they are not related by blood; both are at least 18 years old and both are competent to consent to the partnership.
Parks said this was a formal legal document.
But Washington said the document may be a marriage act.
The bill says there are mutual responsibilities for debts to third parties, the right to seek financial support if the partners split up and the rights of community property.
In 2002, voters approved a constitutional amendment to recognize marriages only between a man and a woman. The vote was 337,197 to 164,573.
The passage of the bill coincided with the “Equality Days” observance in Carson City sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada.
An estimated 80 people are attending and they held a reception at the governor’s mansion Tuesday night.
Gov. Jim Gibbons has said he does not favor the bill and it could face a possible veto if it is approved by the Assembly.
Voting against the bill were Democrats Terry Care of Las Vegas and John Lee of North Las Vegas and Republicans Don Amodei of Carson City, Barbara Cegavske, Dennis Nolan and Warren Hardy, all of Las Vegas, Raggio, Washington and Dean Rhoads of Elko.