Las Vegas Sun

October 20, 2017

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Same-sex marriage ban not consistent with state heritage

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In 2002, even though we both represent different political parties, we joined together to oppose Question 2, the ballot initiative that established in Nevada’s Constitution a ban on same-sex marriage. More than 10 years later, we still believe that this ban was bad policy, as it has hurt our tourist economy, limited personal freedom, and is inconsistent with Nevada’s libertarian values.

The good news is that we are closer than ever before to removing Nevada’s discriminatory ban on same-sex marriage. On Monday, the Nevada Senate approved Senate Joint Resolution 13, sending the measure to the Assembly. If passed by the full Legislature this year, and again in the next legislative session, Nevadans will have the opportunity in 2016 to vote on whether or not to remove Nevada’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and instead recognize marriages regardless of gender. This is an encouraging step in moving Nevada forward, and legislators who vote for this deserve praise for their leadership. Pure and simple, it is time Nevada removes this antiquated ban on same-sex marriage.

Since the ban was enacted in 2002, Nevada, like the rest of the country, has changed. We have changed in terms of demographics, population and, most importantly, attitudes.

Public opinion polls show that a clear majority of Nevadans approve of marriage equality. A recent survey commissioned by the Retail Association of Nevada found that 54 percent of Nevada voters support removing the so-called Protection of Marriage provision from the Nevada Constitution.

But we shouldn’t do this because it is popular — we should do it because it is the right thing to do. No one should be told it is illegal to marry the person they love. Marriage is a basic freedom that should not be denied to anyone. If grown adults can pay taxes, vote and serve their country in the military, they should be granted the freedom to marry the person they love regardless of gender.

Enacting marriage equality is not only the right thing to do, it will also provide a multibillion-dollar boost to Nevada’s struggling economy. Economic impact studies and experiences across the country demonstrate that allowing same-sex couples to marry leads to substantial increases in tourism and spending, generating much-needed tax revenues for local and state governments at a time when we desperately need it.

For those concerned about marriage equality for religious reasons, let us be clear. Allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry will not change how each religion defines marriage. The U.S. Constitution already provides fundamental protections for the free exercise of religion, and SJR13 will specifically protect the rights of clergy, churches and religious organizations to decide whether or not to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.

Nevada has always possessed a libertarian attitude against the government telling us what to do. It is therefore in our nature to reject the premise that the government can tell us who we can or cannot love. It is time we enshrine that libertarian ethic in our state Constitution and pass marriage equality.

This should not be a partisan issue. If a Republican and a Democrat like the two of us can come together to support marriage equality, so can Republicans and Democrats in the Nevada Legislature. We thank the public servants in the Nevada Senate who support Senate Joint Resolution 13, and we encourage legislators in the Assembly to do the same.

Sig Rogich, a Republican, and Billy Vassiliadis, a Democrat, are political consultants in Las Vegas.

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