Tomorrow, Governor Brian Sandoval (R) is expected to sign a major LGBTQ civil rights bill into law. More will probably be coming to his desk soon. Last weekend, I caught up with a key legislator and long-time civil rights advocate who has been on the ground floor of Nevada’s evolution on equality.

After its smooth Senate passage on LGBTQ Equality Day and quick concurrence of minor amendments by the Assembly, the AB 99 foster care bill is ready for Governor Sandoval’s signature. The SB 201 LGBTQ youth conversion therapy ban also passed the Senate last Tuesday, and it’s expected to eventually pass the Assembly and make it to Sandoval’s desk as well. Following both bills’ successful path through the Senate, I caught up with Senator David Parks (D-Paradise) to discuss these bills and what’s next for civil rights in Nevada.
On SB 201, Parks struck a stark contrast to the rough ride his more narrowly tailored SB 353 conversion therapy experienced in 2015.

“The bright spot is [SB 201] will get a hearing in the Assembly.” – Senator David Parks.”

Like Assembly Member Nelson Araujo (D-Las Vegas), Parks sees this session as an opportunity to restart the momentum on pro-equality legislation after activists mostly had to fend off several anti-equality bills last session.

Photo by Andrew Davey

Last Friday, Parks presented SB 408 to the Senate Commerce, Labor, and Energy Committee. If passed, this will limit gender assignment surgeries performed on infants. When a group of LGBTQ civil rights activists first asked Parks to introduce this bill, he was amazed that this practice still occurs.

“Oh, my gosh. Do they still do that?” – Senator David Parks on surgeries performed on infants born intersex.

During the SB 408 hearing, opponents presented a letter from pediatric urologist Dr. Clare Close to make the case that the bill goes too far in restricting surgeries on intersex people. But when I spoke with Parks in his office later in the day, he wasn’t fazed. “She’s basically making my argument for me.”
SB 408 supporters hope the growing consensus for intersex awareness and acceptance will ultimately win the day in #NVLeg. Parks recognized the uphill climb here, but refused to give up this fight “Hopefully, we can keep the issue alive.”
After all, David Parks and other seasoned LGBTQ civil rights activists have been here before. He recalled the first time he introduced the Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA) in the Assembly in 1999 to protect LGBTQ Nevadans in the workplace. Even some key players who’d now be seen as pro-equality were afraid of his efforts to ensure a comprehensive, all-inclusive ENDA.

“I can support the bill, but you have to take transgender out.” – Senator David Parks recalling what others told him in 1999.

Nevertheless, David Parks persisted. In 2009, he succeeded in passing SB 283 to create domestic partnerships. In 2011, he finally got that comprehensive ENDA when Governor Brian Sandoval (R) signed AB 211 into law. In 2013, the Nevada Legislature endorsed marriage equality and passed several more civil rights bills that Sandoval signed. And in 2015, he and others successfully fended off the religious right’s efforts to roll back LGBTQ civil rights in Nevada.

Photo by Andrew Davey

So what comes next? The Senate needs to move on the SB 188 omnibus non-discrimination “clean-up bill” to keep it alive. The Senate has already scheduled a likely committee vote on AJR 2 to guarantee marriage equality in the Nevada Constitution. And as mentioned earlier, the SB 201 youth conversion therapy ban is now moving through the Assembly.
What does Senator Parks think activists need to do in the coming days?

“We need to remain active. We need to keep what we’ve worked so hard to win.” – Senator David Parks

With continued hostility coming from the Trump Administration, Parks urged activists to not just stay woke, but also keep working on the Legislature and the Governor to approve these and other bills to protect LGBTQ Nevadans. “Given the negative climate at the national level, we need to stay vigilant.” While he was disappointed in the party-line votes for AB 99 and AJR 2 in the Assembly last month, he’s “certainly confident” of more victories to come.