Marriage Definition Could be Removed from Nevada Constitution

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CARSON CITY -- Sixteen legislators have signed on to joint resolution that would remove wording in the state constitution that defines marriage as between a man and woman.

Assemblymember James Healey (D-Las Vegas) is one of the sponsors of the legislation. "Everybody should have the right to have an equal opportunity to achieve their dreams and goals," Healey said.

Voters decided to define marriage in the Nevada Constitution as between a man and woman. The amendment required two votes, with the last taking place roughly eleven years ago.

However, Healey said attitudes on marriage equality are different today.

"Ever since I came out (my family has) been very loving towards me," Healey said. "One day at the Thanksgiving dinner table we talked about it, and I said: 'you know my brothers they have 12-hundred laws and rights that I don't have.'"

However, Independent American Party state chair John Wagner said he's against removing the marriage definition from the state's constitution.

"I'm of the old Christian belief a marriage is between one woman and one man," Wagner said. "When it comes to inheritance, and living wills and that type of stuff... I don't have a problem with that, but when it comes to defining marriage I think it should remain exactly the way it is now," he added.

The definition of marriage has so far withstood legal challenge.

Removing the definition of marriage from the state constitution would require approval in this legislative session, the following legislative session, and then the voters would have to support the idea. If the wording is removed from the constitution, it would not necessarily mean two people of the same sex could get married. However, lawmakers could pass marriage equality legislation in the 2017 session.

The resolution comes as the United States Supreme Court considers whether California's ban on same-sex marriage is constitutional.

Healey said Nevada can not afford to wait for federal action on the issue.

"It's about equality and it's about the American dream," Healey said.

Senate Joint Resolution-13 is scheduled to go before a committee on Tuesday. Public testimony will be taken at that time.