Saturday, May 30, 2009 | 8:12 p.m.
CARSON CITY – The Senate has overridden the veto of Gov. Jim Gibbons on the controversial bill to provide certain legal rights to domestic partners.
The vote was 14-7 and the bill goes to the Assembly. Fourteen votes were needed for the two-thirds majority to override the veto of the governor.
Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, said this bill is about “equality and fairness.” This allows domestic partners, either of the same or opposite sex, the same rights and duties as marriage couples.
Opponents say these domestic partners can get the same rights by signing contracts. But Parks said getting legal contracts is cumbersome and cost prohibitive. “There is no guarantee they will stand up.”
Sen. Dennis Nolan, R-Las Vegas, who voted against the bill the first time it appeared in the Senate, changed his vote. And he said he received many calls that were “ugly, vulgar and threatening messages” from people who oppose the bill.
“Senate Bill 283 does not alter or redefine marriage,” Nolan said.
But Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, said this bill “is a slap in the face” of the people who voted for a constitutional amendment in 2002 that recognized marriage as only between a man and a woman.
Washington said he has been called a “religious zealot” but added “I am not here to inflict my religious view on you.”
Voters in 2002 gave final approval to a constitutional amendment 237,197 to 164,573 that marriage should be only between a man and a woman.
Backers of Senate Bill 283 maintain this is about giving domestic partners some of the same rights as enjoyed by those married.
The bill passed the Senate the first time 12-9. Nolan and Dean Rhoads, R-Elko, changed their vote to support the measure. After the vote, Rhoads said he had a lot of e-mails in heterosexual couples interested in domestic relation partnership.
He said the casinos supporting the bill influenced him as well. “Their message made sense. It is not marriage. It is a domestic partnership.”
Voting to uphold the governor’s veto were Republican Mark Amodei of Carson City, Barbara Cegavske of Las Vegas, Warren Hardy, also of Las Vegas, Bill Raggio of Reno and Washington. The two Democrats who also supported the governor were John Lee of North Las Vegas and Terry Care of Las Vegas.
The bill was approved 26-14 in the Assembly the first time. Supporters need two additional votes to get the two-thirds majority.
The bill provides such rights as community property, responsibilities for debts and the right to seek alimony in a split up between couples of the same sex or couples of opposite sex who are not married.
Parks, who is gay, said he has received 1,500 e-mails. And a survey by the Legislature, 79 percent of those questioned favored the bill while 21 percent was opposed.
The bill, Parks said would establish a domestic partner registry in the Secretary of State’s Office where couples, either of the same or opposite gender, register their relationship through the state.
This bill does “not threaten the sanctity of marriage,” said Parks. “SB283 does not circumvent the will of the people because Question 2 made no mention of partnerships or of denying people’s rights and privileges if they are in committed relationships.”
The Senate also voted 21-0 to override the veto of Gibbons on Senate Bill 234 that allowed car rental agencies to charge a small extra charge a day. At present the agencies collect a 10 percent tax of which six percent goes to the state and the rental agencies keep the remaining four percent.
The state is taking the four percent but allowed the agencies to charge to cover their costs. A spokesman for the rental car agencies said it would amount to about $1.25 a day extra.
The Senate also voted 21-0 to override the veto of the governor on Senate Bill 415 that sets the contribution rate the state contributes towards the health insurance cost for its employees and retirees.
The subsidy rate for employees next year will be $626 per month and then it rises to $680 in fiscal 2011. Gibbons wants to reduce the subsidy to $549 next fiscal year and $596 the following year for workers.
The present subsidy is $626 a month.
The bill also set the contribution rate for state retirees at $317 per month next fiscal year and then to $344 in 2011. Gibbons sought to set it at $383 and then drop it to $307 in 2011.
The present subsidy rate for retirees is $410.