Nevada Republicans Moralize About Sex—Really.

Nevada recently has taken some important steps toward civilization in the legislature. The State Senate voted 12-9 to support letting voters decide whether to repeal the Nevada Constitution’s ban on same-sex marriage. The Assembly voted 26-15 to improve the state’s sex education offerings.

Voters approved the gay marriage ban a decade ago, and some of the same purveyors of hate who backed it last time returned to oppose it, despite the world having actually taken some forward steps. As for sex ed, they have elected school boards that oversee policy, and the policy is to offer something resembling sex education that has worked well enough to make Nevada one of the worst states in the nation for its number of teen pregnancies.

During the same-sex marriage debate, one Democrat in particular made news: Kelvin Atkinson, who announced on the state senate floor that he’s gay, and pointed to his father’s interracial marriage as one that would have been illegal not long ago. But only one Republican, Washoe County’s Ben Kieckhefer, voted with Democrats to allow the people to decide whether to vote for repeal. Some of the rest said they didn’t like the process because the bill had been amended. To
help two Mormon Democrats, majority leader Mo Denis and fellow state senator Justin Jones, the bill’s sponsors agreed to state that religious groups could choose not to conduct gay marriages (which, constitutionally, they almost certainly can do, but churches can even choose not to marry people of different genders, so they should be able to do the same for the same, so to speak).

But some Republicans who claimed to have no problem with gay marriage also said they didn’t like a change guaranteeing that the state would recognize gay marriages. How a state could claim same-sex marriage is legal but not recognize the same-sex marriages it considers legal might make sense after a few drinks, but a couple of factors may have influenced Republicans.

One is that Nevada Republicans long have been conflicted, between one another and sometimes within themselves, over whether they are truly libertarian or just conservative. There’s a difference. The idea that these same Republicans (and many Democrats, to be fair) have no problem with legal prostitution or easy divorce or even gambling on the grounds that individuals should be free to do as they wish, but object that gay people’s marriages shouldn’t necessarily be recognized or allowed to happen, is somewhere on the scale between hypocritical and silly.

Another is that Governor Brian Sandoval, who loves everybody, doesn’t love the idea of gay people getting married because … he just doesn’t. Some other powerful Republicans feel the same way. It’s hard not to suspect that with some state senate Republicans having bucked Sandoval and the party’s far right on taxes, this might have been too great a leap of principle to expect them to take.

Then there’s sex education, which some want to leave to parents and some claim already is being done just fine, thank you, in our local schools. There may be some truth in the latter: I went to Rancho High School (Class of ’82, Go Rams) and learned a good bit about sex education in high school. The trouble is, it was taught everywhere but in a classroom.

Anyway, if Republicans want to follow Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and claim that they aren’t going to be the “stupid” party, this was a bad debate to prove it. Right-wingers claimed this could allow Planned Parenthood to force students to learn where to get abortions, as though students couldn’t do a Google search. Assemblyman Wes Duncan, a Clark County Republican, warned that on sex education, what works best for Washoe County might not be good for Esmeralda County. Apparently, the sex is different in Reno than it is in Goldfield. All of these years studying Nevada’s history, and I never knew.

Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey announced, “It is wrong to conclude the state knows better than Nevada parents what is best for their children.” So, let’s eliminate any juvenile courts and programs, or schools where professionals determine the curriculum—oh, yeah, we’ve pretty much done that. Meanwhile, defending the bill, Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, a Las Vegas Democrat, admitted to having had an abortion when she was a teenager. In response, she received death threats. The parents who did that set a fine example for their children, too.