Coverage of a domestic partnership bill approved Sunday by the Nevada Legislature over the objections of Governor Jim Gibbons hits close to a homophobic nerve.

Several instances suggest reporters in the Las Vegas area were feeling uncomfortable with covering the subject of gay and lesbian rights.

In a Las Vegas Sun story openly gay state Senator David Parks is referred to as “a gay.”

The story, titled Senate Overrides Governor's Veto of Domestic Partner's Bill and written by Cy Ryan, appeared on the Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper's website on Saturday.

The phraseology, while representative of an Archie Bunker mentality, is not homophobic on its face, openly gay Connecticut Representative Jason Barlett told On Top Magazine.

“Many folks are not really comfortable discussing gay issues or talking about gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people,” the Democrat said in an email Sunday. “But many of these people are evolving and wanting to be understanding and more enlightened when it comes to GLBT issues.”

Such phrasing suggests to the reader that a gay or lesbian person is a member of a group, such as a Republican, a Mormon, or a Boy Scout, and hence an allegiance easily cast aside.

Gay rights opponents often argue that being gay is a choice – a lifestyle – and as such undeserving of protections or expanded rights.

When asked about the language, Ryan simply answered: “Because Parks is a gay and open about it. He apparently is the only one in the Legislature.”

A second article appearing in the Las Vegas Review-Journal was a bit more overt.
In the May 16 story STATE ASSEMBLY: Domestic Partner Bill Advances reporter Ed Vogel referred to Parks as “the only admitted homosexual member of the Legislature.”

The New York Times style guide warns reporters not to use such offensive language as “admitted homosexual” which suggests “a criminality or shame.”

Additionally, The Associated Press suggests writers avoid the use of homosexual except “in clinical contexts or references to sexual activity.”

Whether the lexicon used in both articles hints at covert homophobia or is merely a symptom of unfamiliarity with gay and lesbian issues by these Las Vegas reporters might depend on future coverage of the domestic partnership debate.

In 2005, the Sun and Review-Journal entered into a joint operating agreement, but remain independent. The Sun was founded in 1950 by Hank Greenspun, who served as its editor until his death.

Greenspun, ironically, is best know for his 1952 attempt to out Senator Joseph McCarthy as gay in the pages of the Sun. McCarthy responded by marrying the next year.