Nevada to vote on scrapping man-woman definition of marriage in state Constitution

A wedding cake at a reception for same-sex couples is seen at The Abbey in West Hollywood, California, July 1, 2013. | REUTERS / Lucy Nicholson

Voters in Nevada will decide in November whether to change the text of the state Constitution to remove language defining marriage as a union between only one man and one woman.

Nevada is one of the about 30 states that passed a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage before such rules were struck down by the 2015 Supreme Court decision, Obergefell v. Hodges, which established a right to same-sex marriage nationwide. 

However, the text of the amendment remains in the Nevada Constitution even though it is unenforceable.

In 2017, former Assemblyman Nelson Araujo and state Sen. David Parks, both Democrats, introduced Joint Resolution 2, which would “amend Section 21 of Article 1 of the Nevada Constitution” to reflect the fact that the Obergefell decision made it unenforceable. 

Last year, the Nevada legislature voted so that the question will appear on the ballot as Question 2 this fall.

If Question 2 passes, the text of Section 21 of Article 1 of the Nevada Constitution will be revised to read “The State of Nevada and its political subdivisions shall recognize marriages and issue marriage licenses to couples regardless of gender.”

The language offers a caveat that “Religious organizations and members of the clergy have the right to refuse to solemnize a marriage, and no person has the right to make any claim against a religious organization or member of the clergy for such a refusal.” 

The proposal stresses that “all legally valid marriages must be treated equally under the law.”

Supporters of Question 2 include the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, the pro-LGBT advocacy organization Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood Advocates. 

Proponents formed the “Yes on Question 2” coalition earlier this month. 

According to Ballotpedia, Nevada is the first state to leave it up to voters to repeal a constitutional amendment that bars same-sex marriage or defines marriage as between one man and one woman. 

According to a 2017 poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, 70% of Nevadans support same-sex marriage while 23% oppose it.

Nevada’s Question 2 is one of several high-profile ballot initiatives that voters will have the opportunity to weigh in on this fall. 

In another western state, Colorado, voters will decide the fate of Proposition 115, which would ban abortions after 22 weeks of gestation. 

Currently, Colorado is one of only seven states that does not have any restrictions on abortion.

In Louisiana, voters will weigh in on Amendment 1, which, if passed, will add language to the state Constitution declaring that “nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

Similar measures passed in West Virginia and Alabama in 2018.

Residents of Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota will vote on the legalization of recreational marijuana, while Mississippi voters will decide whether or not to approve the legalization of medical marijuana in their state. 

Californians will vote on a ballot measure that would overturn Proposition 209, the 1996 ballot initiative supported by a majority of the state’s voters that prevented the use of race as a factor when considering employment applications and university admissions.

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