Wednesday, July 13, 2011 | 2 a.m.
With the stroke of a pen last month, Gov. Brian Sandoval made it illegal to discriminate based on gender.
With that same signature, however, Nevada became perhaps the only state to legalize gender discrimination as long as it’s done in the name of promoting a casino pool party, a tavern’s ladies’ night or gym enrollment.
The law doesn’t specify those promotions, but it is written so broadly that it could include almost anything a business dreams up and labels as a marketing or promotional tool.
It states: “It is not unlawful and it is not a ground for civil action for any place of public accommodation to offer differential pricing, discounted pricing or special offers based on sex to promote or market the place of public accommodation.”
A “place of public accommodation” means just about any business or public entity accessed by the general public.
Shelley Chinchilla, administrator of the state Equal Rights Commission, which has heard complaints in the past about gyms offering free enrollment to women but not men, agreed that the law says “you can’t discriminate, but the other part says it’s OK if it’s a promotion. It causes us a little bit of a dilemma.”
The commission has dealt with similar issues before. In 2008, it ruled in favor of a man who filed a sex discrimination complaint against a promotion by Las Vegas Athletic Clubs that allowed women to enroll for free. The business was ordered to offer the same promotion to men or stop offering it.
Chinchilla said this week that she contacted commissions in other states about the new law and found no other state has made such a distinction in its discrimination statutes.
The original version of Senate Bill 331 only sought to eliminate sex-based discrimination. The amendment allowing promotional discrimination came from Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, who said during a legislative committee meeting on April 1 that she worked on “the ladies’ night exemption” with the Nevada Resort Association.
Association lobbyist Billy Vassiliadis defended the bill’s ladies’ night exemption, arguing it’s needed because of Nevada’s tourism economy.
“We’re also the only state whose survival depends on marketing our wares,” Vassiliadis said, adding that the exemption was more out of caution than necessity because no law outlaws ladies’ night-type practices.
“It allows us to market to special groups,” he added. “We have gay and lesbian marketing, Cinco de Mayo, what have you.”
If anyone has concerns about the new law, they’re hard to find.
Representatives of Equality Nevada, Nevada Women’s Lobby, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada and the American Civil Liberties Union championed the bill, happy that state law would finally make it illegal to discriminate based on sex or gender.
“Overall, the bill does very good things and the idea that a bar may have a reduced drinks for ladies’ night didn’t seem to rise to the level of a constitutional issue that might undo the very positive parts of the bill,” said Allen Lichtenstein, an ACLU attorney.
In fact, you have to go outside Nevada to find someone who has problems with the new law.
Steve Horner, who has made it his mission to fight ladies’ nights in various states, says he is preparing to sue Nevada or find a sympathetic legislator to try to repeal it. He says the law clearly violates the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees “equal protection” to all people.
The 63-year-old work-family coach who writes books and lives in St. George, Utah, said he came to view “ladies’ nights” as the ultimate hypocrisy as he traveled the country for work. He said his fight in Colorado five years ago led to a ladies’ night resolution by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, approved in July 2007, that says, among other things, “Ladies’ night promotions may not involve price differentials ...” and that “the commission strongly discourages ladies’ night promotions ...”
“I saw what women were doing with all their vengeful, male-hating behavior; their rights were already guaranteed in the Constitution, but then they wanted Title IX, then you couldn’t look sideways at a woman without being hit for stalking,” he said. “And now we see (children) aren’t raised very well with (just a single) woman in the household, and they continue to want more and more.”
Horner, who said he’s limited his dating to women “who are on my side,” says “Nevada has become a prostitute” with its ladies’ night exemption.
“It says discrimination is illegal, unless there’s money to be made, and that is no different from a woman compromising her principles for the sake of money and becoming a prostitute,” he says. “And you wonder why there’s so much dysfunction throughout society — it’s all these damned double standards.”
The law takes effect Oct. 1.