Carson City marriage license fees support domestic violence organizations

Carson City’s Advocates to End Domestic Violence office is shown in October 2021. (Photo: Faith Evans / Nevada Appeal)

Carson City’s Advocates to End Domestic Violence office is shown in October 2021. (Photo: Faith Evans / Nevada Appeal)

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but Nevada celebrated ahead of time when marriage license fees increased in July.
For every marriage license purchased in Nevada, a portion of the cost goes to the state’s Aid for Victims of Domestic or Sexual Violence fund. The Legislature agreed this year to raise that charge from $25 to $50.
In most counties, including Carson City, that means marriage licenses are now around $100 total. The other $50 of the license goes toward county fees, the state general fund, and issuing certified copies of the license.
It’s an unprecedented hike in marriage license fees. The last time legislators raised the domestic violence fee was in 2009. Prior to 2021, Nevada has never raised it by more than $5, but legislators had never gone for more than a decade without raising it.
“The money Is really, really important to us and it’s going to make a difference for years to come,” said Lisa Lee, executive director of Carson City’s Advocates to End Domestic Violence.
AEDV has been providing shelter to victims of domestic violence in Carson City since 1983. They’re one of the local grant-eligible organizations who benefit from the Victims of Domestic or Sexual Violence fund. In 2019, they received approximately $60,000 from the account, by Lee’s estimates.
With the new marriage license fee increase, their state grant funding is projected to double.
This time last year, Lee and her colleagues at AEDV helped lobby for Senate Bill 177 that secured the $25 increase. Some of the largest opponents to SB177 included the Nevada Wedding Association and Las Vegas’s City Clerk Office.
One Republican legislator suggested that they try to drum up more marriages, rather than raise the fees, Lee said.
 “Really when you get married, it is so expensive,” Lee said. “That’s not even one meal if you were going to have (the wedding) catered.” Besides that, a significant number of Nevada’s marriages come from out of state tourists. It’s not necessarily locals who are footing the bill.
And the increase comes at an opportune time.
“The pandemic significantly impacted the Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence Fund… Weddings were rescheduled or canceled, which resulted in a decrease in funding,” Nevada’s Division of Child and Family Services said in an email correspondence with the Appeal.
The DCFS is responsible for monitoring the state’s domestic violence fund and distributing grants. According to them, at its lowest point, the fund saw an 85 percent decrease in funding during the pandemic, collecting barely more than $37,000 in April 2020. In years prior, April marriages often generated close to $300,000 for the account.
In June 2020, the DCFS and Nevada Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence were so desperate for funding that they started the “Say I Do” campaign. They asked Nevadans to support local domestic violence organizations with donations.
Luckily, fiscal year 2021 running from July 2020 to June 2021 has made a rebound, collecting over $3 million in marriage license fees for the Victims of Domestic or Sexual Violence fund. That’s on par with 2018 and 2019.
Not only will SB177 continue to boost that funding, but it also expands the services that grants from the fund may support.
Previously, Nevada’s Division of Child and Family Services only awarded money to finance domestic violence resources. Now, organizations like AEDV can also use some of their grant funding to support victims of sexual violence.
Lee joked that she didn’t lobby for the bill out of greed.
“When I look at it for us, (grants from the Victims of Domestic or Sexual Violence fund are) a small piece of our budget now, but there was a time when it was a primary piece of our budget.”
She’s excited to see how the money affects Nevada’s rural counties with smaller populations who still need domestic violence support and funding. Most years, counties like Esmeralda, Humboldt, and Lander only receive the base amount from the account, somewhere around $30,000 depending on the year.
If the marriage license fee increase pulls through and doubles that funding, that’s enough money to really make a difference, Lee said.
For those who won’t be seeking a marriage license anytime soon but would like to support AEDV directly, find donation details at Lee will also be holding a ribbon cutting for AEDV’s Intervention & Resource Center on Thursday, Oct. 7 at 5 p.m. on 3640 Gordon St. off Highway 50.


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