This November, citizens of Nevada will vote on whether it’s time to repeal the state constitution’s ban on same-sex marriage, marking the very first statewide vote on such an issue since the Obergerfell decision. Confused? Don’t worry, we’ll explain below. Keep reading.
Didn’t Obergerfell make bans on same-sex marriage illegal?
Before we get deeper into the story, you have to understand how US law works. Prior to the Supreme Court making same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015, each state had their own laws on the books. For example, in 2004, Massachusetts became the very first state to allow gay marriage. That very same year, 13 “red” states took a different direction and instead added laws to their books legally defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Nevada wasn’t among them, as they had already banned gay marriage two years prior, in 2002.
Fast-forward to the Obergefell ruling. The Supreme Court’s decision overrides state laws, rendering those marriage bans completely invalid. However, they still remain on the books. Bans on same-sex marriage aren’t the only unconstitutional laws that still exist nationwide. In Louisiana, “sodomy” is still technically illegal. Over in Arizona, it took 50 years to wipe segregation laws off their state constitution. Head back East to Virginia and you’ll find 100+ racist laws still in existence.
So, while Obergefell rendered Nevada’s ban on same-sex marriage useless, they still need voters to make a decision on whether to take it off the books entirely. That’s where the rest of the story comes in.
Nevada Voters Decide Whether to Officially Ditch State’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban
This November, as Nevada voters head to the polls to choose the next president of the United States, they’ll also be casting a vote on whether to overturn the same-sex marriage ban. Civil rights groups are launching a campaign to urge the public to do the right thing. Briana Escamilla, director of the Nevada chapter of the Human Rights Campaign, said
“Our hope is that with a decisive victory in November, we can indicate that the fight against LGBTQ rights won’t be successful at the ballot box in the future. We know that we can’t take anything for granted.”
Andre Wade, the director of Silver State Equality, added that despite Obergerfell, “there are efforts in parts of the country to undermine the protections.” He cited an alt-right group’s efforts in Tennessee this year who claimed clerks violated the state’s ban on same-sex marriage by giving licenses to gay couples. Wade said,
“That just is a reminder that we can never rest on our laurels. Regardless of what happens in the Supreme Court, there are always threats. We never know what’s going to happen.”
Surprisingly, Nevada is actually the first state to put a repeal to vote. Currently, 30 states still have outdated bans in their constitution. Sarah Warbelow of the Human Rights Campaign called them an “ugly scar.” She said they may still exist because legislators have been busy dealing with other issues when it comes to LGBTQ rights, such as passing laws to protect them.
Along with removing the language recognizing marriages as a union only between a man and a woman, if the repeal passes, it means that the state’s constitution will recognize all marriages, regardless of gender, and “that all legally valid marriages be treated equally under the law.” However, it would also give religious organization a right to refuse to officiate same-sex marriages.
Groups heading up the Yes on Question 2 campaign, including the ACLU said that they are unaware of any opposition to the ballot question, but they wanted to get ahead of any resistance that could pop up.