Senators in Nevada have overridden
Governor Jim Gibbons' veto of a domestic partnership bill, the Las
Vegas Sun reported Sunday.
Senators agreed 14 to 7 Saturday on the
controversial bill that offers gay and straight couples limited
guaranteed benefits associate with marriage, including matters such
as community property and responsibility for debt. Private business
would not be required to provide benefits such as health care to the
domestic partner of an employee. But many employers do voluntarily
provide such benefits to domestic partners.
“The only way for our state to treat
its citizens is as equals under the law,” Jan Gilbert, a lobbyist
for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, a group in favor
of the bill, said in a statement. “This was a resounding rejection
of the governor's intolerance and it is wonderful to have something
Gambling and tourism leaders, including
gambling giant Harrah's Entertainment, had mounted a lobbying
campaign in support of the bill, saying a boycott of the state by gay
and lesbian groups could devastate the state's economy, especially in
tourism dependent Las Vegas.
The Senate vote was as tight as it gets
with the bill's openly gay sponsor, Senator David Parks, a Democrat
from Las Vegas, pulling out a win with not a vote to spare. Only 12
senators voted in favor of the original bill.
Two Republican senators, Dean Rhoads of
Tuscarora and Dennis Nolan of Las Vegas, changed their minds on the
Nolan said he received many “ugly,
vulgar and threatening messages” from opponents of the bill.
Critics of the bill argue that such
unions are too similar to marriage and go against the will of Nevada
voters who approved a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage
“We are saying to our citizens their
votes do not matter,” state Senator Maurice Washington, a
Republican from Sparks and a minister, said. “This bill is a slap
in the face against the people of this great state.”
Parks disagreed: “[The domestic
partnership bill] does not threaten the sanctity of marriage. SB283
does not circumvent the will of the people because Question 2 made no
mention of partnerships or of denying people's rights and privileges
if they are in committed relationships.”
A poll released last week by the Las
Vegas Review-Journal showed half of all Nevadans surveyed opposed
domestic partnerships for both gay and straight couples. A large
majority (71%) of Republicans oppose such unions. The paper's
conclusions run counter to nationwide polling that finds that a large
majority (67%) of Americans agree that gay and lesbian couples
deserve to have their unions recognized either by marriage, civil
union or domestic partnership, according to a recent CBS
News/Washington Post poll.
Assemblymembers now get to decide if
they will join in the override. The chamber's original 26 to 14
approval falls short of the two-thirds majority needed to override
the governor's veto by two votes. Two members – one Republican,
one Democrat – were absent during the original vote, but neither
appear supportive of the bill.