Carson City, Nevada- Debate was intense, tempers flared and emotions ran high during committee hearings in the Nevada Senate and State Assembly on Friday as several bills dealing with same-sex domestic partnerships and discrimination based on sexual orientation and “gender identity or expression” were discussed.
Last week, Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, introduced two of these bills into committee… Senate Bill 283, which calls for a new type of civil contract for domestic partnerships, in which domestic partners would have the same rights, protections and benefits as a married couple in Nevada and Senate Bill 207, which is designed to give protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations. Both came under fire from opponents.
Richard Ziser, a former Republican nominee for the US Senate and a Nevada Concerned Citizen lobbyist, expressed strong opposition to Senate Bill 283, pointing out that 6 years ago the Nevada State Constitution was amended to define marriage to be between one man and one woman and contended the bill was a move to circumvent that amendment.
But in emotional testimony, Pamela Brooks of Reno, tearfully told the committee how she had been denied access to the body of her long-time partner after she passed away in a hospital, saying she was treated like a criminal and told to leave the hospital room.
“Since I was not next of kin, I had no rights to my deceased partner, could not have her final effects like her commitment ring, wallet or even an article of clothing to take away, I never saw her body again, and that was the last of our relationship,” Brooks told senators, adding that she “doesn’t want special rights, only equal rights.”
Things got heated during testimony on SB207 also when Sen. Parks, angrily responded to a critic of the legislation to prohibit discrimination in public places based on sexual orientation. Park who is openly gay, said he was “grossly offended” after Lynn Chapman of the ultra rightwing Nevada Families, alleged the bill would give “predators and pedophiles” opportunities to prey on children in bathrooms or locker rooms.Under current Nevada law, any person who feels they have been discriminated against in public accommodation because of race, color, religion, national origin or disability, can file a complaint with the Nevada Equal Rights Commission, and SB207 seeks to extend this right to a person who feels they have been discriminated against based on sexual orientation.
Meanwhile, in the Nevada Assembly Commerce and Labor hearing on AB184, criticism of the bill prohibiting discrimination by employers with regard to gender identity or expression got vicious, and prompted another yet another lawmaker to say he was offended, and all but caused a fist fight among those in the assembly meeting room.
When Janine Hansen of Phyllis Schlafly‘s Nevada Eagle Forum condemned the bill on religious grounds, Assemblyman William Horne of Las Vegas retorted angrily that he found it offensive that someone would “use the shield of religion to support discrimination.” Then according to a witness in the committee chamber, after another man claimed the bill would force employers to hire “a girl using the men’s room,” a shouting match was set off that threatened to turn physical, prompting the committee chairman, Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, to slam down his gavel and shout at the crowd to restore order to the room.
No vote was taken on any of the measures Friday.
In a state that allows gambling, prostitution and proudly bills itself as the sin capitol of the world, it is ironic that there should be any controversy about protecting the rights of that states LGBTI citizens at all.
If God were going to smite Nevada, Nevada has given him plenty of other reasons to send the fire and brimstone.