Gay marriage advances, with amendment to repeal ban and allow marriage equality

With a last-minute amendment that would both repeal the ban in the Constitution and replace it with a mandate for Nevada governments to recognize it, gay marriage advanced in the Legislature on Thursday.

The vote was along party lines on SJR 13 in the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee, with Republicans James Settelmeyer and Barbara Cegavske opposing it. Settelmeyer told Tick Segerblom, his colleague who presented the resolution, that if he hadn't brought the repeal-and-replace amendment, he would have supported it. But he insisted the language mandating governments recognize what advocates call "marriage equality" did not belong in the Constitution.

He might be right, but there was a method to the amendment, as one insider pointed out:

"The vote on party lines was not surprising, but the amendment actually gives marriage equality a chance, whereas the previous version of SJR 13 made it a two-step process (repeal out of constitution, then effort to put it back in).  This does it all at once...."

And with Gov. Brian Sandoval reaffirming his opposition to gay marriage, this was an obvious strategic move.

"It depends on which process you took on that," the insider told me. "You could do two votes then vote of people to take out and then do the reverse to add marriage equality in. OR, you could do it statutorily, but that would be conditioned upon a governor signing it.  There is NRS language that is somewhat redundant on the current constitutional language, so you could strike it out.  Either way, lots of what ifs and lots of time."

Governors can't veto joint resolutions, so if the Democrats get this out of Carson City this time and next session, it's up the voters.

RJ's Sean Whaley posted the developments.