Why raise gay marriage issue? | NevadaAppeal.com

Why raise gay marriage issue?

Nevada Appeal editorial board

Does Nevada really need a constitutional amendment to outlaw gay marriages?

Of all the problems facing Nevada, this one barely registers a blip on the radar. We doubt the marriage bureau is being besieged by gay couples eager to tie the knot.

And people who aren’t gay, if they’ve thought twice about the issue at all, probably figure the Nevada constitution’s definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman pretty much covers the matter.

Not the Coalition for Protection of Marriage in Nevada, though. It has begun the process collecting 44,009 signatures on petitions in order to get a measure on the ballot later this year.

Carson City Mayor Ray Masayko has lent his name to the crusade, as have Sen. Lawrence Jacobsen of Minden and several other state legislators.

Richard Ziser, who is chairman of the coalition, offered some reasons for pushing a constitutional amendment, but none of them sounded convincing.

He said the group fears that “liberal judges” or lawmakers in other states could force Nevada to recognize same-sex marriages, and that churches “might not be able to decide who they marry and where.”

If either of those happen, though, it seems to us that Nevada has bigger troubles than same-sex marriages.

The two states cited by the group – Hawaii and Vermont – should be examined for what really happened there, not any vague scare tactics to incite Nevada voters.

In Hawaii, the state’s Supreme Court in December upheld a law limiting marriage to heterosexuals. If anything, it strengthens the view that Nevada’s constitutional definition is sound.

In Vermont, the state Supreme Court’s ruling was hailed as a victory for homosexual couples. The court there ordered the state legislature to come up with a way to make sure gay couples weren’t being discriminated against when it comes to family issues such as visitation, inheritance and insurance benefits.

The ruling did not allow gay marriages, though. Congress, by the way, has already limited federal benefits to opposite-sex marriages.

California will vote in March on Proposition 22, which would ban gay marriages. It may well go down to defeat, which would send exactly the opposite message.

And there’s no guarantee such a measure would pass in Nevada. The state may be very conservative, but people here also strongly endorse individual liberties. More than one conservative cause has failed to understand the difference.

Stirring up the issue of gay marriage in Nevada no doubt will garner the Coalition for Protection of Marriage in Nevada ample support. Gay marriages, indeed, make most people uncomfortable.

But if it stirs up discussion of the real issues involved – Are some people subject to discrimination and different treatment under the law because they are gay? – then the coalition may well wish it had left the Nevada Constitution alone.

The Coalition for Protection of Marriage in Nevada might spend its time better on trying to preserve heterosexual marriages, more than half of which end in divorce.