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July 28, 2014

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Committee approves gay rights partnership bill

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CARSON CITY – Over the objections of Republicans, the Assembly Judiciary Committee has approved a bill giving certain rights to gay couples, the same as those enjoyed by married couples.

Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, said this bill “has nothing to do with same-sex marriage.” It is about civil relationships between two persons, he said.

Senate Bill 283, which goes to the floor of the Assembly for vote probably later this week, provides that domestic partners have the same rights in such things as community property, responsibility for debts and the right to seek alimony in a split up.

Assemblyman Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks, said this bill “is not a marriage license.” And Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said this bill helps strengthen relationship between individuals.

A couple that wants to achieve these rights must register with the Secretary of State and pay a fee. The bill as amended says that a private employer is not required to provide health care benefits to a domestic partner of an employee. The Senate, in approving the bill, said government does not have to provide health insurance coverage for these partners.

The bill also says that a “solemnization ceremony is not required in order to enter a binding domestic partnership contract.”

Assemblyman Ty Cobb, R-Reno, said this bill does not conflict with the constitutional amendment approved by the voters in 2002 that marriage is between a man and a woman. But he said it “conflicts with the intent of the people” who supported the ban between marriages of couples of the same sex.

He said this bill has “unintended consequences” such as exempting the real property transfer tax when property is exchanged between the two individuals. He said these domestic partners will not be required to testify in court against each other.

These rights in the bill, he said, could be achieved by entering into contracts.

Assemblyman Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, said the bill creates a fee to be collected by the Secretary of State to have these partnerships. He suggested that a two-thirds vote was necessary to pass any new or increased tax or fee.

But the legal staff for the committee said this was a “revenue neutral” fee and does not generate any more revenue.

The bill said the fees received must be used “solely to pay for expenses related to administering the filing of domestic partnerships …”

The measure says a surviving domestic partner, following the death of the other partner, has the same rights, protections and benefits and is subject to the same obligations as granted or imposed upon a widow or widower.

And the bill bars discrimination against domestic partners.

If approved by the Assembly, it returns to the Senate for agreement on some amendments imposed by the committee.

Besides Cobb and Gustavson, other Republicans voting against the measure were Richard McArthur and John Hambrick both of Las Vegas. Hambrick said he reserved the right to change his vote when the bill reaches the floor of the Assembly.

Anderson, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko, who was absent, wanted to be recorded as opposed to the bill.

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