Las Vegas Sun

April 21, 2014

Currently: 75° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Legislature 2013:

In split vote, Nevada Senate passes measure to begin repeal of gay marriage ban

Click to enlarge photo

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer

Click to enlarge photo

Sen. Kelvin Atkinson

Following more than an hour of riveting and personal floor speeches — during which one state senator publicly announced for the first time he is gay — the Nevada Senate voted 12-9 to begin the process of repealing the gay marriage ban from the state constitution.

Only one Republican, Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, joined with Democrats to vote in favor of Senate Joint Resolution 13, which would repeal the ban on gay marriage and replace it with a requirement that the state recognize all marriages regardless of gender.

The late night vote came after more than an hour of emotional floor debate, during which opponents of the measure decried efforts to label them as "insensitive and unenlightened," and supporters argued marriage equality should be extended to all regardless of gender.

In a particularly emotional moment, Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, publicly declared for the first time that he is gay.

"I’m black. I'm gay," Atkinson said in a trembling voice after describing his father's interracial re-marriage that would have been banned earlier in American history. "I know this is the first time many of you have heard me say that I am a black, gay male."

Atkinson went on to rebut the argument that gay marriage threatens any other definition of marriage.

"If this hurts your marriage, then your marriage was in trouble in the first place," he said.

Both Democrats and Republicans sought to balance religious convictions with their stance on public policy. Both came down on different sides of the issue.

"I don't know if I'll be allowed in church on Sunday," said Sen. Ruben Kihuen, a Catholic, who said his "more progressive" girlfriend often berated him for resisting gay marriage rights. He ultimately voted in favor of SJR13.

Click to enlarge photo

Sen. Justin C. Jones

Sen. Justin Jones, a Mormon, said he sees his gay brother-in-law each Sunday at church and couldn't bring himself to vote against extending him marriage rights despite a threat from one of the earliest proponents of the gay marriage ban.

"I would rather lose an election than look my brother-in-law in the eye every Sunday and tell him he doesn’t have the same rights as I do," Jones said.

Sen. Joe Hardy, also a Mormon, took a different tack, saying marriage is "ordained of God" and that such relationships "perpetuate beyond the grave."

"I do not believe this measure will strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society," he said.

Sen. Mark Hutchison, also a Mormon, decried efforts to paint those who oppose gay marriage as intolerant.

"Until about a year ago this was the view of the president of the United States," Hutchison said of President Barack Obama's initial opposition to gay marriage on religious grounds. "I do not recall his supporters labeling him as intolerant, or insensitive or hypocritical or unenlightened. He had a different view than others."

Republicans largely objected to a late amendment to SJR13, which would require not just the repeal of the gay marriage ban, but also inserting into the constitution a requirement that the state recognize such unions.

"Process is important," said Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, who supported the original version of SJR13, which simply repealed the ban. "The better course of action was and is to pass the original SJR13."

Kieckhefer, who uttered not a word on the Senate floor, was the only senator to buck his caucus on the vote.

In 2000 and again in 2002, Nevada voters approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and woman. Proponents of SJR13 note a shift in public opinion away from that sentiment.

If SJR13 passes, the Legislature would have to approve it again in 2015. The measure would then be placed on the 2016 ballot.

"This is a vote to let the people vote for equality," said Sen. Pat Spearman, D-North Las Vegas.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 9 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. A different perspective. I'm gay and Robert and I have been together 19 years and were legally wed in Canada 9 years ago. We say NO! NO! NO! To my friends who have changed their minds on this issue we can't thank you enough. We are heartened to see how many Nevadans have thought this through in a critical way and have seen that our marriage has not affected yours and that all citizens gay and straight should be treated equally under the law.
    Maybe the great "defenders of marriage" like Senator Ensign and Governor Gibbons helped you to change your mind to believe that civil marriage should be considered a right for gay couples after all. Which brings me to the point. NOBODY'S CIVIL RIGHTS SHOULD BE PUT UP FOR A VOTE! THAT'S WHY THEY ARE CALLED RIGHTS! These votes never should have happened to begin with. We trust the courts. We believe in the justice system. And we believe that marriage equality will one day be law. But a resounding NO for asking people to judge me again with the hateful lawn signs and misleading dumbed-down commercials not even appropriate for a five year old let alone a critically thinking adult. It's demeaning, it's hurtful, and frankly Robert and I have seen and had enough ignorance and stupidity thrown at us over this issue to last us the rest of our natural lives. Nevada did a dumb thing. Twice. No more, thank you.
    Stuart & Robert Wyman-Cahall
    Las Vegas, NV 89142

  2. My friend "truthserum". Robert and I are American as apple pie, live in Las Vegas, love our country and Rober and I, for 20 years, love each other. We went to Canada, not because we think life is better there, but because they honored us by giving us the opportunity to do something there we couldn't do in our own country. They were thoughtful enough to allow us to marry. We were there for a few days and had kour honeymoon there. And Canada's world did not come to an end.

  3. Is this the most important issue facing NV? Personally, I couldn't care less one way or the other since it won't affect me at all. I just wish homosexuals would leave their orientation in the bedroom. I'm tired of seeing it aired in public. I have no desire to know what they do in the privacy of their own bedrooms. Frankly, the images stirred disgust me. As for coopting the word "gay?" From all I've read about their lifestyle over the years, there's nothing "gay" about it. They yap about the "stress" of hiding their orientation and commit suicide at a greater percentage than the general public. To me, "gay" is a synonym for "happy." I see litle that's "happy" about their lifestyle.

  4. @Jerry...You might be happier someplace other than LV if public flaunting of sexuality is offensive.

  5. Personally, I'd like to see the State drop all reference to "marriage" in any form and deal strictly with the civil contract side of it in relation to benefits, taxes, etc. and let other institutions deal with "marriage" as a celebration of such a contract.

    Since that is not going to happen, this is the next best thing and it is long past time.

  6. Truths sedrum = hardly worth commenting about when he compares gays to druggies etc

    His comments about lifestyle and choice are nothing but religion masquerading as medical science. Virtually every med / psych group say that being gay is built in just as for the majority of us being str8 is a built in

    His knowledge of med science is about the same as if I put out my shingle as a heart specialist - even though I never took biology 101

    As for the % of gays in the population, I've been to iceland (2011 - voted 49 to 0 for marriage equalty and Denmark 2012 voted 85-22 for marriage equality

    Spoke to several govt officials there and they all said about 8 to 9% of the population admits to being gay - there is no closet in those countries

    TRuth Serum - as usual anything but truth. Just the religious right standard rant.

  7. Interesting. So according to @gnelson681 we should base our positions on Karl Marx Communist Manifesto. I wonder what other Marxist advice he thinks we should consider true.

  8. Comment removed by moderator. ALL CAPS

  9. I agree with Sen. Joe Hardy that institutions like marriage perpetuate beyond the grave. Because of this, we must regulate it before it gets out of hand! I propose a state constitutional amendment banning marriage between ghosts and zombies. Ghost-zombie marriage is damaging to the traditional family unit, and must be banned! Only ghost-ghost and zombie-zombie is acceptable in the eyes of my diety!