Gay marriage ban repeal comes to a head in state Senate


UPDATE, NO. 2: In a party line vote, with Democrats standing in unison in support and Republicans together in opposition, the religious-protection amendment was passed this morning. Floor vote Monday. It's going to happen.

UPDATE: As predicted below, the religious protection language is out, via the RJ's Sean Whaley.

As early as today, a Senate Joint Resolution designed to repeal and replace the gay marriage ban in Nevada could reach a critical point, with Democrats confident they will have the votes of all 11 caucus members.

In a related development, the author of the same-sex ban, Richard Ziser, released a survey by a GOP firm that attempts to throw cold water on the repeal, but also has a skewed sample and seems quite tendentious.

The key for the Democrats is making LDS members Mo Denis, the majority leader, and Justin Jones comfortable with the amended version, which repeals the ban and replaces it with a mandate that governments recognize same-sex marriage.

I am told that this decision is gut-wrenching for Denis, a high-ranking local church official who signed onto the original resolution repealing the ban but is against the so-called replace language. "It's one of the hardest decisions of his life," one person close to Denis confided.

Denis endorsed the ban repeal not so much because he supports something his church does not but because he believes the public, which would have a vote if lawmakers pass it this year and again in 2015, should decide. But the problem is that with Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson also saying he is against the amended version after being for the original resolution, the Democrats have no margin for error to get to a majority.

Some have held out hope that Republican Ben Kieckhefer would vote for SJR 13, but I am not so sure. Kieckhefer would not comment. But while he and perhaps three other Republican senators might have gone for the original language, the replace amendment has become a GOP caucus issue, so it has zero votes right now on that side.

I am reliably told that the Democrats would not have had sponsor Tick Segerblom present the amended resolution in committee last week without a plan to count to 11. So how do they get there?

One possibility: Other states have inserted "religious protection" language that would not impose the same-sex marriage mandate on churches, but ensure they would be done civilly. Might that fix the problem? I'd guess so.

My guess is the pressure on Denis -- and Jones, too -- is intense from church members. But Denis also is the leader of a caucus that overwhlemingly wants this, so my guess is if his religious concerns are assuaged, he will go for it, as will Jones.

As for Ziser's poll, which I have attached here, it was done by Strategic National, a GOP polling firm that was affilated with Sharron Angle's Senate race (notice her picture on the firm's home page). The poll itself has methodological problems --  only 9 percent in 18-35 age cohort -- that may not reflect a changing Nevada and is contradicted by other recent data by a group without an agenda on the issue. But the survey probably has some validity in its argument (and that is what it is) that Nevadans may not so clearly parse domestic partnerships and marriage as some advocates would hope.

Most offensive, though, is this question:

A few states now allow for same-sex marriage. This state recognition allows for  children to be taught that homosexuality is a viable and healthy lifestyle alternative.  Knowing this, should Nevada allow same-sex marriages?


Scarier (if true, and that's a big IF): 50 percent say prohibit same-sex marriage based on that,; 40 percent say do not.

Democrats think that Republicans are being disingenuous by claiming they might have supported the proposal if not for the amended language, that the language belongs in statute not the Constitution. (The latter may be a valid policy argument, but the politics are obvious: The Democrats want to circumvent a governor with a veto pen.) They seem especially upset with Roberson, who they believe knew the replace langauge would be in there.

One fascinating sidelight: Josh Miller, who runs Keystate Corp. and is the son of conservative businessman Monte Miller, has been whipping votes as a national board member of the HuMan Rights Campaign. Monte Miller is seen as close to Roberson (everything the senator does is blamed on/credited to Miller, it seems). And the father, like the son, supports gay marriage and has signed a letter to that effect. That letter, which is still getting signatures, is also attached here. I'm sure some Democrats thought Miller the Younger could get to Roberson through Miller the Elder. Have to love the incestuousness of Nevada.)

Bottom line: I think it passes, but the path will be excruciating and painful.

(Graphic from