Las Vegas Sun

October 19, 2021

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Gay rally adds impetus to Assembly bill

A national week of political action for gays, lesbians and bisexuals may be the week a controversial anti-discrimination bill is taken up by the Assembly.

Across the country on Sunday rallies were held to kick off the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force's Equality Begins at Home Week.

Gay, lesbian and transgender leaders gathered at UNLV to show their support for the week and Assembly Bill 311, which would make it illegal to discriminate against someone in the workplace because of sexual preference.

"Right now the bill is in the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee, but we are expecting a vote on it there this week," Assemblyman David Parks, D-Las Vegas, told about 50 people gathered in the courtyard next to the Moyer Student Union. "I can't think of a better week for it to be passed on to the Assembly."

Parks says that he feels the bill will pass but knows there is opposition out there.

"We know that there is opposition, and that they are doing everything they can to get this bill defeated," Parks said. "That's why we need to get as many people to call their legislators and let them know that they support this bill."

The bill would add the words "sexual orientation" to Nevada Revised Statute 610.020, which already makes it illegal to discriminate against hiring people on the basis of race, color, creed, sex, religion, disability or national origin.

About 10 other states have passed similar legislation, and that type of action is what Equality Begins at Home is trying to create more of, task force organizer Alexis Sainz said.

"We are demanding full equality under the law, and that's what Equality Begins at Home is all about," Sainz said. "In the last 15 years the power has shifted from the national government to the state level, and you can see that happening right here."

Former state Sen. Lori Lipman Brown agreed with Sainz's assessment that the power has shifted to the states, and she used that power herself to help get Nevada's sodomy laws repealed in 1993.

Brown says she believes that Parks' bill will pass the Assembly, but she is not as sure it will pass when it reaches the Senate.

"I just hope that the Senate does the right and fair thing," Brown said. "Some of the legislators are concerned with whether voting for this bill will hurt them in the next election.

"All I can say is that Sen. Mark James and Secretary of State Dean Heller voted for that repeal in 1993, and it didn't hurt either one of them politically."

Another speaker at the rally said that while the bill is a very good thing, future legislation should be inclusive of transgender people.

"The rights that we are asking for are not special rights, but human rights, and this bill is a great step forward," Jane Heenan, founder of Transgender Support Las Vegas, said. "I will celebrate this bill when it passes, but as a transgender person, I'm not included in it."

Park said that when he introduced the bill he was not aware of the plight of transgender people, or those who have had or are in the process of having sex-change procedures. But Park said he would like to look into it more.

As part of Equality Begins at Home week, a town hall meeting about equal rights legislation will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada.

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