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December 18, 2014

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Marriage equality still up for debate in Nevada

GAY MARRIAGE IN NEVADA

2000 — 69 percent of Nevada voters support a ban on same-sex marriage, the first of two votes required for a constitutional amendment in Nevada.

2002 — 67 percent of Nevada voters support the ban, authorizing the change in the state constitution.

2009 — State politicians override Gov. Jim Gibbons’ veto, legalizing domestic partnerships.

2013 — Legislators vote in support of lifting the same-sex marriage ban, the first of two legislative votes required before a repeal of the ban can be put back on the ballot. The Legislature is planning for a second vote during the 2015 session, followed by a ballot measure in 2016. In a poll by the Retail Association of Nevada, 57 percent of voters support lifting the same-sex marriage ban, a dramatic shift from the 67 percent who approved the ban 11 years earlier.

February 2014 — Nevada leaders stop recognizing the voter-approved ban. Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, a former federal judge, joins Democratic Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto to declare the ban discriminatory.

April 2014 — The Nevada Republican Party strips opposition to gay marriage from its official platform.

May 2014 — The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals announces that in September, it will hear a case brought by eight same-sex couples to overturn the gay-marriage ban.

In 2002, Nevada voters overwhelmingly supported a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

But over the past dozen years, public opinion has shifted in America and Nevada.

States have passed laws on anti-discrimination, civil unions and marriage that recognize gay couples. The military lifted its don’t ask, don’t tell policy. And in every state except North Dakota, plaintiffs filed lawsuits to strike down bans on same-sex marriage.

The lawsuits began in California in the late 1990s and started a “domino effect,” said Melissa Murray, a University of California law professor who studies marriage and families.

Lawsuits in New York and Massachusetts followed, and in just the past two months, federal courts in Pennsylvania, Idaho, Arkansas and Oregon all have struck down same-sex marriage bans.

“Every day it seems like a new state introduces marriage equality,” Murray said. “I don’t think anyone thinking about this 10 years ago could have dreamt of this rapid pace.”

The pace of change in Mountain West states has been slower, especially among Republican leaders, but even here opinions are shifting.

“All of these actions demonstrate that the Republican Party recognizes the inevitability of marriage equality,” said Tod Story, executive director of the ACLU of Nevada. “It’s only a matter of time before the law of the land reflects that equality, whether it happens state by state or ultimately by the (U.S.) Supreme Court.”

Ross Miller

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Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller answers media questions Monday, May 2, 2011, at the Legislature in Carson City.

Age: 38

Party: Democrat

Legacy: Son of former Gov. Bob Miller, who served from 1989 to 1999

Background: Miller may be best known for a UFC fight he won in 2012, but he has spent most of his career in politics. He went to Stanford University as an undergrad and interned for President Bill Clinton. After earning a law degree from Loyola Marymount University, he became a Clark County prosecutor. In 2006, he was elected the youngest secretary of state in Nevada history.

His position: He believes the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. If the 9th Circuit upholds the ban, he would not enforce the prohibition. Miller said he would vote to legalize gay marriage if it were on the ballot.

He says: “It’s clear looking at case law that Nevada’s ban is unconstitutional.”

Adam Laxalt

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Adam Laxalt

Age: 35

Party: Republican

Legacy: Grandson of former Nevada Sen. Paul Laxalt and son of former New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici

Background: The Laxalt name carried weight in Nevada during the 1980s but has since faded. Laxalt is an Iraq war veteran who served as a judge advocate general and special assistant U.S. attorney. He has a law practice in Las Vegas.

His position: He believes marriage is between a man and woman. If the 9th Circuit overturns Nevada’s ban, Laxalt would wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the ban before he would allow gay marriage in Nevada. He said the populist approval of same-sex marriage shouldn’t be a topic attorney general candidates debate.

He says: “(The ban) is in the (state) constitution. That’s the thing that has been bothersome. It has been made a political issue. If we allow these to become political issues in the attorney general’s office, everyone will lose faith in the attorney general.”

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