Only two members of the GLBTQ community presented OUR stories to the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections on March 22 taking public testimony on Assembly Joint Resolution (AJR) 2. The bill would change Section 21 Article 1 of the state’s constitution from marriage limitions to recognition of marriage. The bill has been amended to include protection for religious organizations and clergy from any legal actions for refusing to perform a same gender marriage. The bill is now the exactly same language as SJR13 in 2013.
Telling their GLBTQ stories to the committee were Jeromy Manke a native Nevadan and president of Our Center and Tod Story, executive director of the Nevada ACLU. Additional support came from the P-Flag Carson Region president, Nevada League of Women Voters, The Libertarian Party, Nevada (NSHE) Faculty Alliance, PLAN, Planned Parenthood, and seven individuals. Janine Hanson, a longtime anti-gay advocate, Lynn Chapman, of Nevada Eagle Forum and Dr. Bill Tarbell, a retired Presbyterian minister were they only one’s testified against the bill. No one testified in the neutral position.
Religious freedom seemed to be the focus of those against the bill, which would define marriage in the state’s constitution. Concerns over infringement of religious freedom and liberties infringements, if the bill passes, were the only reasons given to be against the bill. Currently religious organizations and clergy can refuse to marry a couple should they choose with no repercussions.
Senator James Settlemeyer asked why the amendment was added now instead of when in the Assembly of Assemblyman Nelson Araujo, who is the major sponsor of the bill. Araujo said that those involved in the legislation reworked the bill to address issues brought up about religious organizations and clergy. Settlemeyer voted against SJR13 in committee and on the Senate floor in 2013. He favors removing any definition of marriage from the state constitution.
Senator Kelvin Atkinson, who was one of the first to get married on October 9 when same gender marriage became legal in Nevada, questioned Janine Hansen’s public comment about clergy, lay or otherwise. Hansen said she was concerned about lay ministers in her church who could be targets if not covered by the amendment. Atkinson asked if there were clergy present as she did not represent them.
AJR2 will now appear on a Senate Committee on Legislation Operations and Elections work session where the committee will vote to do pass or kill the bill in committee. No date has been set for the work session.
Before the meeting 274 people had registered their opinion online. Of those, 211 favor the bill and 63 did not support it. Most of those against comments referenced religious liberties and freedoms. While others refer to a vote in 2000 and 2002 where nearly 70% of the voters voted to define marriage as between a man and a women.
To become law, AJR2 needs to pass the Senate this session before being reintroduced in 2019 to face public hearings and comment. If it passes out of the 2019 session, the people would then vote on the matter in 2020.