Nevada became the first state in the country to protect marriage equality in its constitution Tuesday. With the passage of Question 2 in this week’s general election, the state amended a section of their constitution that had previously defined marriage as existing only between a man and a woman. A federal appeals court eventually found the state's ban on marriage equality was unconstitutional, but the offending language remained on the books until Tuesday. According to KOLO News, the local LGBTQ+ community is welcoming the news.
“We want to be treated equally so that we can just live our lives in peace,” Sean Savoy, founder and director of the Northern Nevada LGBTQ Leadership Alliance, said.
“It’s really exciting to be part of a state that is changing and moving things forward for the LGBTQ community,” said Tyler Colton, a queer business owner.
The initiative officially asked voters if the Nevada constitution should be amended to remove the opposite-gender requirement for marriages, and instead recognize and issue marriage licenses to couples “regardless of gender,” and to require equal treatment under the law for all legal marriages. The initiative also established a religious exemption for members of the clergy and religious organizations, allowing them to refuse participation.
The passage of Question 2 overturned an initiative from 2002 that had placed the discriminatory language in the constitution. Also named Question 2, the earlier initiative passed overwhelmingly and barred government officials from recognizing same-sex couples or issuing them marriage licenses. In 2014, Nevada’s ban on marriage equality was ruled in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of U.S. Constitution by the Ninth Circuit Court. The new Question 2 officially removed the offending language.
Both the 2002 and 2020 versions of Question 2 passed by similarly large margins, showing how attitudes have changed in the state in less than 20 years. While it may seem performative to some, the move could prove prescient. Earlier this year Supreme Court justices intimated that they needed to possibly overturn their decision to make marriage equality a federal mandate. Now, with a conservative majority, that could be a possibility. If that happens, protections may fall to the states.
“Most people in their life have a family member or friends that are a part of the LGBTQ community and that supporting their friends and family really does make a difference,” Colton said.
“Just let people live and be happy,” Savoy observed.