It’s Time for Gay Marriage in Nevada

Economically, Nevadans tend to think they live in a vacuum. Why diversify the economy or improve the tax structure when we have tourism, and can let visitors pay for everything –until the economy crashes and they show up less often. Why worry about gold prices when we know the mining companies will be here as long as there?s ore in the ground–until gold prices go into a free-fall and suddenly poor, starving Barrick Gold can?t afford to keep 40 people on the payroll.

That thinking is wrong-headed but hard to overcome. It?s easier to point out the local impact of national politics and justice.

The Supreme Court doesn?t want African-Americans to vote but is all right with gay people getting married. Antonin Scalia, who makes Attila the Hun look easy-going, attacked the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act but, in the case leaving California?s Prop 8 to the states, he voted with the majority and Obama appointee Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

Getting a headache from analyzing what the Supremes are doing and saying is easy. But what about how actions like these affect Nevada?

Sevcik v. Sandoval is headed for a ruling in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the group of justices who right-wingers hate because they believe in the Bill of Rights. This case challenged the Nevada Constitution?s amendment, passed in 2002, saying, ?Only a marriage between a male and female person shall be recognized and given effect in this state? (not A male person and A female person, so the wording still has me convinced that only someone who is both male and female can get married).

Last year, U.S. District Judge Robert Clive Jones upheld the law. Some who disagree with his decision might attack him for being anti-gay rights, noting that his opinion upholding the amendment was a bit enthusiastic. He didn?t do a Scalia, meaning that he didn?t suggest anything totally stupid, but he did follow in the footsteps of Chief Justice John Roberts and address issues that the plaintiffs hadn?t brought up in his apparent zeal to oppose gay marriage.

Now, the Ninth Circuit presumably will hear the case. As it does, Nevadans will be getting ready to vote on repealing that offensive amendment. That?s where the politics come in.

Times have changed. The Defense of Marriage Act passed overwhelmingly in 1996, and only the truly hateful are sorry to see the high court toss it. At the time, all four members of Nevada?s congressional delegation voted for it, and in three cases, their lives show how the personal is political:

? Senator Harry Reid has strongly backed gay marriage, first in a wedding toast to one of
his longtime aides, Jon Summers, and later when he said that one of his nieces is gay.

? Representative Barbara Vucanovich?s granddaughter is one of the other plaintiffs in the Sevcik case.

? Then-Representative John Ensign later backed a U.S. constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, saying, ?Marriage is the cornerstone on which our society was founded.? As for Ensign?s views on marriage ? uh, well, never mind.

Before you say that bringing up Ensign is a cheap shot?he?s out of office, so let?s forget
about him?the opposition to gay marriage that he expressed reflects an all-too-common hypocrisy, and a sentiment that we should consider from three angles.

One is simple consistency. For the state of Nevada to bar gay marriage, or say anything about the supposed morality of one marriage or another, should cause the biggest brain freeze this side of swallowing a quart of ice cream in one shot. This is the state that pioneered easy divorce; made marriage so easy that an ersatz Elvis could perform the service without you leaving the car; and doesn?t think that prostitution is wrong as long as it?s in a sparsely populated county.

Another is economics. This is a tourist state and some entrepreneurs have even marketed to
gay people. Yet Nevada, which wants you to come here for a quickie marriage, won?t make it possible for gay people to get married because that would be wrong? Puh-leeze.

Finally, there?s the irony of history. Why did Nevada become a state? The Civil War was
being fought and Lincoln and his fellow Republicans?a very different group of Republicans?wanted our votes for president and in Congress. One of the conditions of statehood was for Nevada to ban slavery, with the expectation that our new representative would vote for the U.S. constitutional amendment banning slavery?which Henry Worthington did on January 31, 1865, although he didn?t get any credit for it from Daniel Day-Lewis.

In 1861, just after Nevada became a territory, Congress had approved and sent to the states a constitutional amendment protecting slavery from federal interference. Less than four years later, with Nevada?s vote, Congress did the opposite. If you think attitudes about gay marriage changed fast, try that one on for size.

So, next year, we get to vote to start the process of repeal. The Supreme Court could have sped up the process. Maybe the Ninth Circuit can help.