The most dramatic non-Steven Brooks moment in the 77th Nevada Legislature so far was the Senate’s April 22 passage of Joint Resolution 13, which proposes to amend the state constitution’s language on marriage. It began as a request to repeal the 2002 constitutional amendment defining marriage as a male-female union, but a revision to the resolution pushed it further: As passed by the Senate, it would require the recognition of all marriages, regardless of gender (with the exception of churches, which don’t have to bless unions they object to). Tod Story, the interim executive director of the ACLU of Nevada, spoke to us about the potential meaning of the resolution.
What’s the larger significance of the resolution, beyond authorizing same-gender marriage?
The current constitutional language is discriminatory, whereas the new language—if passed by the Legislature in 2015 and on the ballot for votes in 2016—would recognize the rights of all couples under the law and enable them to exercise those rights.
Do you think the current momentum behind marriage equality will last through the next three years?
It will be better in 2016 for two reasons: 1) The country is evolving rapidly; the fears about same-gender marriage that were discussed in the last decade have not come true. 2) The younger generation is more open-minded. This is true of every generation; that’s how we’ve made slow progress in civil rights and equality for 200-plus years.
What does having same-gender marriage in Nevada mean in the context of the federal Defense of Marriage Act?
Most states modeled their state DOMA after the federal language. Having same-gender marriage at the state level doesn’t solve the problem; it just means the couples in those states would be able to get the benefits that all couples get. I think DOMA will be overturned. Until 1996, when it was passed, the federal government wasn’t in the business of recognizing marriage except for tax issues.