Las Vegas Sun

July 17, 2019

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Forum gives couples glimpse into domestic partnership law

Secretary of State hosts forum before legislation takes effect Oct. 1

Domestic Partners

Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

Partners Monica McCurtain and Melanie Combee listen to attorney Ishi Kunin speak about Nevada’s domestic partnership law Monday during a town hall meeting at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center in Las Vegas.

Domestic Partnership

Partners for 23 years, Christopher Espinoza and Joseph Munoz, right, fill out forms for their domestic partnership during a town hall meeting Monday at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

Carla McBee and Kally Bryan moved from California to Nevada six months ago. They’ve been together for three years, and starting Oct. 1, the state will legally recognize their relationship.

McBee said domestic partnerships are old news in California, but she’s happy Nevada took a step forward with a bill passed earlier this year recognizing such relationships.

“It says we’re equal just like anybody else,” McBee said. “We pay taxes, we’re your neighbors, and we’re the same as anybody else.”

Both attended Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller’s forum Monday evening at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada to learn about the benefits – and any potential drawbacks – of the bill. Gov. Jim Gibbons had vetoed the bill, but the Assembly on May 31 voted 28-14, the bare minimum needed to overturn the decision of the governor.

The Assembly vote followed a 14-7 vote in the Senate a day earlier and set the bill on a course to become law.

Unlike some state domestic partnership laws, Nevada’s includes both same-sex and heterosexual couples. American Civil Liberties Union representative Judy Cox said this is one of the unique aspects of the bill.

“Most states, if they even allow heterosexual couples, have an age limit like over 62, but here in Nevada it’s equal,” she said.

Miller is allowing couples to pre-file until Sept. 24 so they can receive their certificates on Oct. 1. Miller said his office has received about 350 filings.

“We’re already past Wisconsin, and we’re expecting a very high volume of filings in the first week,” Miller said. “To accommodate the high volume, we wanted to allow for a month of pre-filing so we would be able to process those registration forms.”

Couples interested in domestic partnerships are required to pay a $50 fee and fill out a registration form. The form has to be notarized and mailed to the Secretary of State’s office. To help with this process, the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada had notaries available at Monday night’s forum.

Gay and Lesbian Community Center spokesman Tod Story said he had received 27 notarized registration forms by the end of the event.

Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, sponsored the bill and is the only openly gay elected official in Nevada.

“In the very beginning there were a lot of people who told me that I probably didn’t have a great chance of getting it passed, especially given the budgetary situation this year,” Parks said at the forum. “I’m happy to see it moving forward.”

Parks said Nevada is the 17th state to recognize domestic partnerships. However, states vary on the provisions they offer, he said.

To clarify the Nevada bill’s provisions, panelists included Cox and Parks; attorneys Jim Davis and Ishi Kunin; and Terri Gurevich from Nathan Adelson Hospice.

Many couples were concerned about past debts affecting their current partners. Kunin explained that a person’s past debt is separate until the partnership is registered with the state.

“From the date of partnership backwards, it’s separate,” Kunin said. “From the date of partnership forward, it’s community or joint.”

Other topics of interest included adoption, prenuptial agreements and medical benefits. The new bill doesn’t mandate that employers give health insurance to an employee’s partner, although some companies have said they’re willing to recognize an employee’s domestic partnership.

Dawn Randall said she knows of companies that are willing to recognize domestic partnerships in California. She said she hopes Nevada businesses will take the same approach.

“We’ve been together for 10 years,” Randall said while smiling at her partner, Lily Ramirez. “That’s a lot longer than most regular married people.”

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