Nevada eyes paving way for same-sex marriage

Cathleen Allison / The Associated Press

Cathleen Allison / The Associated Press

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Beverly Sevcick has been in a relationship with the same person for more than four decades. They’ve taken vacations and gone through trying sicknesses, and they could fill many photo albums with their memories.

But because they are lesbians, they can’t get married.

“We’ve done what most couples hope to do — we’ve grown old together — but we still think something is missing,” Sevcick told members of the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections on Tuesday. “For me, if you love someone, you marry that person. It breaks my heart that I cannot marry to a person I love so much and have spent the last four decades with. Mary is my everything.”

Sevcick testified during the hearing on Senate Joint Resolution 13, which would repeal a Nevada constitutional provision that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Because it’s a constitutional amendment, it must be approved by legislators this year and in 2015 before going to voters in 2016.

The hearing came on the same day the U.S. Supreme Court was hearing arguments on California’s ban on same-sex marriages. In California, same-sex couples briefly had the right to marry before voters adopted a constitutional amendment in November 2008 that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman. A federal appeals court later struck down Proposition 8 setting the stage for the high court review.

“It’s not just about being able to stand up and say ‘I do.’ It’s not about standing up in your house of worship and being recognized. It’s about being recognized by your own country,” said Assemblyman James Healy, D-Las Vegas. Healy is a sponsor of the resolution and openly gay.

Healy said his mother did not agree with him that same sex-couples should be married until he told her heterosexual couples have 1,138 benefits through marriage that same-sex couples lack. Until leaders enact same sex-marriage legislation, saying the Pledge of Allegiance is half-hearted, Healy said.

“Then — and only then — we can stand on our floors of our respective houses and salute our flag and say ‘liberty and justice for all’ and finally mean it,” he told committee members.

Supporters added that allowing same-sex marriages in Nevada — the marriage capital of the world — would bring in more money for the state.

“My personal belief is that marriage is between a man and a woman. But as governor, I believe the people of Nevada should have the freedom to decide should this issue come before them for a vote,” Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval said a statement Tuesday.

Several ministers who supported the resolution testified that marriage is not a Biblical matter, and numerous tweets during the hearing alluded to relationships between Biblical characters that could have been gay, but a Silver Springs pastor vehemently disagreed.

“‘Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church’ is in there,” Pastor Dick Cervi said. “But from cover to cover a relationship between a man and a man is never defined using the same terms.”

In addition to the moral concerns voiced by most, one opponent presented a secular case against states recognizing same-sex marriages.

“We have gotten so far from the original purpose and why government recognized marriage,” said Richard Ziser, a Nevada political activist. “The original purpose was the protection and procreation of children.”

Cervi referenced George Washington’s farewell address, in which he said religion and morality were “indispensable supports” for America, and he cautioned lawmakers from failing to heed the first president.

“Even though the whim of the people is for it, I caution you against it,” he said. “If we take morality out of the question, as George Washington warned, the nation will go down.”

With some Senate Republicans backing the resolution, it stands a good chance of clearing the Senate.

“It’s time to stop playing politics with other people’s lives and let people decide what they want to do with their lives,” said Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas.


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