3d illustration, Wedding Rings symbolizing the same sex marriage in Germany
LAS VEGAS — Nevada will vote this November on whether to repeal a same-sex marriage ban from the state's constitution, the first statewide vote on such a ban in the five years since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized the marriages nationwide.
Civil and human rights groups said Wednesday that though they believe public sentiment has greatly shifted on the issue since the court ruling in 2015 and Nevada's constitutional ban was overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2002, they are launching a public campaign to urge support for passing the repeal.
"Our hope is that with a decisive victory in November, we can indicate that the fight against LGBTQ rights won't be successful at the ballot box in the future," said Briana Escamilla, the director of the Nevada chapter of the Human Rights Campaign. "We know that we can't take anything for granted."
Andre Wade, the director of Silver State Equality, noted that despite the court's landmark ruling, there are efforts in parts of the country to undermine the protections. Wade cited a conservative group's effort in Tennessee earlier this year contending that clerks were violating that state's constitution by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
"That just is a reminder that we can never rest on our laurels," Wade said. "Regardless of what happens in the Supreme Court, there are always threats. We never know what's going to happen."
Though the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated state constitutional bans on same-sex marriage in its June 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, 30 states still have the outdated bans enshrined in their state constitutions.
Sarah Warbelow, the legal director of Human Rights Campaign, said that though the bans are unenforceable, "they're still an ugly scar" on state constitutions.
She said they may have been kept in place because legislatures may have been focusing their efforts elsewhere when it comes to LGBTQ rights, such as passing nondiscrimination laws. In some areas of the country, there remain vocal critics of same-sex marriage and the process of amending state constitutions can be complex.
The ballot question that Nevada voters will weigh in on this November had to first be passed twice by a two-thirds vote of the state Legislature, in 2017 and 2019.
In addition to removing language recognizing marriages only between a man and a woman from Nevada's constitution, the ballot question before voters will require that the state recognize all marriages, regardless of gender, and that all legally valid marriages be treated equally under the law. It would also stipulate that religious organizations and clergy members have the right to refuse to solemnize a marriage and that no person has the right to make a claim against them for a refusal.
The groups heading up the Yes on Question 2 campaign, including the American Civil Liberties Union, said that they did not know of any opposition to the ballot question as of Wednesday, but they wanted to get out of ahead of organized resistance.
They plan to campaign across Nevada, including in rural areas. They also contend there's a potential economic benefit of declaring the state welcoming to all marriages as Reno and Las Vegas, the self-proclaimed "Wedding Capital of the World" with its a la carte wedding chapels, are popular wedding destinations.