Las Vegas Sun

April 20, 2014

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Where I Stand:

Lovers, leaders and laws that are lemons

The gaiety of a Las Vegas wedding.

If the past is prologue, this weekend in Las Vegas will have once again proved that it is the unofficial wedding capital of the country. There is something about our city and the desire of young couples to tie the knot here that continues to fill the marriage license bureau and wedding chapels as young lovers celebrate Valentine’s Day in a most committed way.

Valentine’s Day is by far the most popular day for nuptials with knots in the thousands being tied and happy couples bounding forth to begin new lives that started in our city.

But one thing is certain about all those weddings in all those chapels and churches that define the Vegas experience: Not one of those newly married couples will be gay.

That is because Nevada outlawed gay marriage, like many other states, and that prohibition has been enshrined in our constitution. However, that doesn’t mean that soon — within a couple of years perhaps — things will change in the Silver State and the ban on gay marriage will go the way of the buggy whip.

With this weekend being bookended by the national day of hearts and flowers on Friday and Presidents Day on Monday, it seems appropriate to talk about lovers and leaders, in that order. I was reminded of this phenomenon by two things.

The first was my dear Myra’s advising me that after so many decades of blissful marriage, there was no longer the necessity to express my love with flowers, a tradition I started when I couldn’t afford them and continue now that I can, as long as someone else reminds me.

The second came from the pages of the Las Vegas Sun. One story reported that Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto refused to defend Nevada’s gay marriage ban before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and that Gov. Brian Sandoval, looking at the case as both a lawyer and a former federal judge, agreed with her that the state’s ban was “no longer defensible.” (You can just imagine the uproar the governor’s reasoned position has caused in some tightly drawn circles across this state.)

It didn’t take long — Friday’s Sun to be exact — for a story to be published that said Republican attorney general candidate Adam Laxalt would fight to uphold Nevada’s constitutional ban on gay marriage, a position which puts him at odds with both the Democratic attorney general and our popular Republican governor.

It is OK, of course, to be at odds with both Democratic and Republican office holders. That is what makes elections exciting and worthwhile. And, to be honest, I really don’t know who is right or wrong, but I would bet money on Sandoval, Cortez Masto and numerous federal courts across the country that have already opined on the matter.

I don’t know about you, but I have grown really tired of our elected leaders who have consistently taken nonpositions on matters of significant national interest because they fear that, by doing so, they will alienate one group or another. And when it comes to the issue of gay marriage, who wants to take the risk of upsetting the wrong crowd?

In this case, I don’t doubt the young Laxalt when he says he doesn’t believe in gay marriage. Many people don’t. But when he says that as attorney general he would fight to uphold the ban (and it seems clear to even once-upon-a-time lawyers like me that it will be trumped by the U.S. Constitution), then I have to question whether his protestations are based on legal or political grounds.

The Supreme Court will ultimately decide this issue, so what I think, or what attorney general candidates think, will be of little consequence.

Except that something remarkable has happened in a very short period of time. Between the time that Nevada passed its version of the gay marriage ban and today, the people of this country have changed their own minds, and it doesn’t appear that they will change them back. A growing majority of Americans now believe that banning gay people from marrying each other is just plain un-American and, by all means, unconstitutional. (Full disclosure: My own opinion has evolved over the years).

And the younger the American voter, the more solid that opinion holds, which means that it is only a matter of time before voters across the country and in Nevada make the changes by themselves.

So, on this weekend where love conquers all, we shouldn’t get all tied in knots — especially those who seek political office — trying to hold to a social value that is not and should not be valued by the U.S. Constitution.

It is a sign of responsible leadership that compelled both our attorney general and governor, regardless of their personal views, to act consistent with the oath of office they took.

It would be a sign of courageous citizenship — a refreshing one — if the people of Nevada showed respect for such leadership.

Brian Greenspun is the publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.

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