The LGBTQ+ community will be protected by the state constitution in the event of the federal law being repealed by the Supreme Court.
Nevada became the first state to recognize a same-sex couple's right to marry in its constitution. More than 60% of the voters supported gay marriage to be included in the state constitution after they were asked on the Nevada ballots if they supported an amendment recognizing marriage “as between couples regardless of gender.” This comes five years after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, a landmark civil rights case in which the court ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples. Obergefell v. Hodges invalidated same-sex marriage bans nationwide. The amendment in the state constitution erases an 18-year-old ban on same-sex marriage. The federal law meant that state laws contradicting the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling couldn't be enforced. Now, the LGBTQ+ community will be protected in the state even if the Supreme Court rolls back its ruling on same-sex marriages. “It feels good that we let the voters decide. The people said this, not judges or lawmakers. This was direct democracy — it’s how everything should be,” said Equality Nevada President Chris Davin, reported NBC News.
While many thought of the poll question as a mere formality, André Wade, head of Silver State Equality, said it was a fix that needed to be made. “We have discriminatory language in the constitution, and we need to take it out. We know Nevadans value equality, and we want our constitution to mirror that,” said Wade, reported KTNV-TV. Silver State Equality had worked to put the question on the ballot.
BREAKING NEWS: Nevada becomes the first state in the nation to protect same-sex marriage it its constitution #NOH8 pic.twitter.com/TUnoqPHBOg— NOH8 Campaign (@NOH8Campaign) November 4, 2020
"The State of Nevada and its political subdivisions shall recognize marriages and issue marriage licenses to couples regardless of gender," read the amendment. Under the new amendment, legally valid marriages will be treated equally under the law. However, the amendment allows religious organizations or members of clergy the right to refuse "solemnizing," or performing a marriage. A voter referendum in 2002 defined marriage as between “a male and female person.” The vote to amend the constitution to include recognition of same-sex marriage comes at a time when the support for gay marriage is at an all-time high in the United States, according to a Gallup Poll.
With the state amending its constitution, it also protects same-sex marriage rights in the event the Supreme Court rolls back the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling. The installation of Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court judge last month has set the alarm bells ringing among the LGBTQ+ community. Barrett, who took liberal judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg's place in the Supreme Court, is strongly conservative and a Catholic. She signed a letter to Catholic bishops which included a statement about “marriage and family founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman.” She made it evident that she does not recognize same-sex marriage and shared the view with the Catholic Church, reported The Hill. During her confirmation hearing, Barrett confirmed she would never discriminate on the basis of “sexual preference.” However, she refused to opine if she agreed with the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling. Nevada is one of 30 states with a constitution that defined marriage as strictly between a man and a woman. With this new amendment, Nevadans offers protection to LGBTQ+ couples who choose to marry in the state.
“It’s so exciting that it passed. It’s been a very long process," said YeVonne Allen, program director for the Equity, Inclusion, & Sustainability Office at Truckee Meadows Community College, reported Reno Gazette Journal. "Nevada was one of the few states in 2000 that voted to make [marriage] in its constitution between a man and a woman. Fast forward to the twenty-teens and people realized how bad it was to have that in our constitution."