In a stunning – and unexpected –
come-from-behind victory for gay rights advocates, Nevada lawmakers
have passed a domestic partnership bill over the objections of
Governor Jim Gibbons, the AP reported.
Assemblymembers agreed 28 to 14 Sunday
– and Senators 14 to 7 Saturday – on the controversial bill that
offers gay and straight couples limited benefits associated with
marriage, including matters such as community property and
responsibility for debt.
Both votes barely nudged the two-thirds
majority needed to override the governor's decision.
“What a historic and amazing day for
Nevada's LGBT citizens,” said Tod Story, a board member of the Gay
and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada. “Committed
couples in Nevada who currently cannot get married or choose not to
get married will now have the option of domestic partner legal
protections granted by and recognized in our state. Nevada's
tradition of libertarian independence and self-determination
continues with the passage of this law and these rights.”
Passage of openly gay Senator David
Park's bill by override was unexpected. Four lawmakers – two from
each chamber – flipped their previous no vote to yes.
In the Senate, two Republican senators,
Dean Rhoads of Tuscarora and Dennis Nolan of Las Vegas, joined
Democrats in approving the legislation.
Nolan said he received many “ugly,
vulgar and threatening messages” from opponents of the bill.
In the Assembly, two Las Vegas
Democrats came on board to seal the deal for gay rights advocates.
Marilyn Kirkpatrick altered her previous no vote, while Jerry
Claborn, who had been absent during the original vote, voted in favor
of the override.
Gaming 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.
Critics of the bill had argued that
such unions are too similar to marriage and go against the will of
Nevada voters who approved a constitutional amendment banning gay
marriage in 2002.
“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, a Democrat from Las Vegas, said
passage showed the state could be progressive and thanked supporters.
“I could never have done it alone,”
Parks said. “It was a wonderful, concerted effort on the part of
lots and lots of people, right down to lobbyists who didn't have
anything to gain from it but thought it was the right thing to do.”
Nevada's domestic partnership registry
is the second major legislative bill to become law against the wishes
of a governor this session. In April, Vermont lawmakers barely
managed to override a gay marriage bill veto by Republican Governor
The new law goes into effect on October