Nevada voters will decide gay-marriage, mining-tax issues
May 23, 2013
Nevada voters will decide in November 2014 whether to eliminate the mining industry's protection against higher taxes.
Lawmakers on Thursday approved sending Senate Joint Resolution 13 to the ballot. They also approved moving SJR 15, which would eliminate the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, to the 2015 Legislature. If it's approved again, voters will decide the issue in November 2016.
The most emotional debate was focused on removing the 2002 voter-approved ban on recognizing gay marriage.
Elliott Anderson, D-Las Vegas, a Marine Corps veteran, said everyone should have the same freedom he enjoys as a straight man.
"If an adult can pay taxes, vote, serve and die in combat, then they should be allowed to marry the one they love," he said.
Backers including two openly gay members of the Assembly said times have changed, and the electorate in Nevada no longer opposes same-sex marriage.
Andrew Martin, D-Las Vegas, said speaking about the issue was "extremely personal and difficult for me."
"Many of you know I'm openly gay," he said.
Pointing to his partner of 27 years in the gallery, Martin said they have been denied the fundamental right of equality under the law.
"We cannot have separate classes of laws for separate classes of people," he said, arguing that's what the Constitution defining marriage as only between a man and a woman does.
James Healey, D-Las Vegas, said that as a gay man, he has been asked why domestic partnerships aren't good enough.
"Why should I have to live my life 'good enough'?" he asked.
Healey said the man he planned to spend the rest of his life with died in a motorcycle wreck in September 2010. He promised at the funeral that he wouldn't stop fighting until same-sex couples have the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples.
"He's gone, but we have a chance today to allow loving couples like Eddie and me to have that dream," he said.
They were joined by Michele Fiore, the lone Republican to back the ballot question. She said she was raised by a lesbian mother in a loving home and family.
"Since I am straight, I can marry the person of my choice," she said. "My mom doesn't have that choice."
Assemblyman Paul Anderson, R-Las Vegas, said he was torn because his religious beliefs prohibit him from supporting gay marriage even though he has family members who are gay "and beloved members of our family.
He said 86 percent of his constituents oppose same-sex marriage.
"I believe marriage between a man and a woman is ordained by God," said Cresent Hardy, R-Mesquite.
The Assembly approved SJR13, already passed by the Senate, on a 27-14 vote with Fiore joining Democrats and Peggy Pierce, D-Las Vegas, absent.
On a party-line vote, the Assembly also approved giving voters the option of removing the mining industry's protection from special taxation from the Constitution. The Legislature also approved the measure in 2011.
Opponents argued that would create havoc in the industry.
"Just this one bill has the power to close many of the small ore mines in the state of Nevada," said Assemblyman John Ellison, R-Elko.
He argued that, amid all the efforts to attract new businesses and industries to the state, "we have forgotten those who helped us get here."
Saying the average salary in mining is $88,000 and that the industry employs 25,000 Nevadans, Ellison urged the body, "Please don't vote to change our Constitution at the cost of hundreds of high-paying jobs."
Jim Wheeler, R-Minden, said repealing mining's constitutional tax protections would create "doubt to the investors who have millions at risk in this state."
But Skip Daly, D-Sparks, said jobs won't disappear.
"We're not going to lose mining and jobs. The minerals are here," he said, adding that the miners will continue to dig them up as long as it is profitable.
Backers also said the ballot question doesn't raise mining's tax rates, that it just removes the protection from the Constitution.
All 26 Democrats on the floor voted to put the issue on the ballot. All 14 Republicans voted no.