In a remarkable turnaround from last session, this year’s Nevada Legislature has been passing a host of civil rights bills. Several of these aim to cement in place or expand LGBTQ civil rights in Nevada. Today, the Legislature passed a critical LGBTQ youth protection bill and placed it en route to Governor Brian Sandoval’s (R) desk.
Last week, the State Senate passed AJR 2 on a bipartisan 19-2 vote. Only Senators Don Gustavson (R-Reno) and Joe Hardy (R-Boulder City) opposed. In contrast to past conflicts over marriage equality, and even domestic partnerships, AJR 2 sailed through the Senate with scant opposition.
Yet in March, the Assembly passed AJR 2 on a near party-line 27-14 vote. This had many #NVLeg watchers scratching their heads. Why were these bills running into more resistance in the Assembly than the Senate?
If anything, the Assembly’s marriage equality vote foretold a wild ride ahead for another key LGBTQ equality bill.
At last month’s Assembly hearing for SB 201 to ban conversion therapy on LGBTQ youth, three of the Senators who voted against the bill appeared with anything but a friendly amendment. SB 201 sponsor Senator David Parks (D-Henderson) called out their “smokescreen” during the Assembly hearing, yet Assembly Member Chris Edwards (R-Sunrise Manor) hinted he’d take up their amendment fight when he joined all the Democrats to pass the bill out of committee last week.
The full Assembly opted not to adopt the unfriendly amendment last Friday. Instead, they voted to approve Assembly Member Nelson Araujo’s (D-Las Vegas) amendment that further clarifies that the bill is consistent with similar conversion therapy bans that have been upheld by federal courts. That led to today’s dramatic final floor vote for SB 201.
“Conversion therapy is a dangerous and unethical practice. […]This is an inhumane practice targeting our most vulnerable.” – Assembly Member Tyrone Thompson (D-North Las Vegas)
Assembly Member Ira Hansen (R-Sparks), a long-time opponent of expanded LGBTQ civil rights, tried one more time to amend the bill and water it down. After demanding a full Assembly vote on his amendment, Hansen watched as the Assembly approved tabling it on the Chief Clerk’s Desk… Thereby killing it softly.
That prompted Edwards to switch again, this time back to opposing the bill. However, that prompted an impassioned rebuttal from Assembly Member Jill Tolles’ (R-Reno): “This bill doesn’t warrant the opposition.” She read through Araujo’s amendment, then reminded her colleagues of all the professional medical organizations that have condemned conversion therapy in the last 20 years.
Assembly Member Araujo himself then rose to make a closing argument for the bill.
“I want us to be able to stand proudly and say we are a model state for others to follow. […] Offer nothing but love and nurture [for LGBTQ youth]. It’s good for our youth. It’s good for NV.” – Assembly Member Nelson Araujo
After several weeks of high drama, the Assembly finally voted 31-8 to pass SB 201. Assembly Members Tolles, Lisa Krasner (R-Reno), Robin Titus (R-Yerington), Richard McArthur (R-Las Vegas), and Paul Anderson (R-Las Vegas) joined all 26 Democrats present. Assembly Members Dina Neal (D-North Las Vegas), Keith Pickard (R-Henderson), and Melissa Woodbury (R-Henderson) were absent.
The Senate must soon concur with Araujo’s amendment, then the bill goes to Governor Brian Sandoval (R)’s desk. Civil rights activists are confident he will soon sign SB 201 into law… And soon get another major LGBTQ equality bill on his desk. SB 110, to ease the name change process for transgender Nevadans, passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee unanimously today. Watch this space.