Nevada’s LGBTQ community has a reason to celebrate amid a contentious election week as the Silver State became the first to enshrine same-sex marriage rights in its constitution.
Nearly 62% of voters Tuesday backed a constitutional amendment recognizing marriage “as between couples regardless of gender.” The Marriage Regardless of Gender Amendment also allows religious organizations and clergy to retain the right “to refuse to perform a marriage.”
Previously, Nevada was one of 30 U.S. states with a constitution that defined marriage as strictly between one man and one woman. The ban was put in place in 2002 following a voter referendum only to be struck down by a state appeals court in 2014. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized marriage equality nationwide.
Human Rights Campaign Nevada State Director Briana Escamilla said in an email that she hoped the amendment would remind lawmakers “across the country that LGBTQ equality is a winning issue millions of voters care about and prioritize at the ballot.”
“Nevada has sent a message that it is a welcoming place for anyone looking to make a life here,” she said. “This overwhelming majority should be a reminder that LGBTQ equality is not just the right thing to do, it is exactly what Nevadans want.”
Other LGBTQ advocacy groups felt similarly and applauded Nevada even as the state remained a focal point in an undecided presidential race.
News of the amendment followed the release of a national survey that found support for marriage equality at an all-time high in the U.S.
About 70% of U.S. residents favored granting same-sex couples the right to marry, according to the 2020 American Values Survey published last month. That’s an increase of about 9 percentage points from the 2017 edition of the report.
Still, many couples and advocacy groups said they are concerned marriage equality and other LGBTQ rights could be in jeopardy moving forward. In October, the Supreme Court tilted to a 6-3 conservative majority following the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
Nevada’s constitutional amendment, however, will ensure protections for married same-sex couples even if marriage equality is overturned at the federal level.
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