By Kate McCormick
freshman English major
While this election year has been overflowing with anxiety and concern for the well-being of marginalized communities, a huge win has been made on the state level: Nevada has become the first state to protect same-sex marriage equality in its constitution. This November, Nevada voters put through the Marriage Regardless of Gender Amendment, a monumental moment in history.
Same-sex marriage has been preserved on the federal level since 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled under Obergefell v. Hodges that marriage equality is protected under the Fourteenth Amendment in the Constitution. However, Nevada voters were still able to have their voices heard in regards to altering the constitution of their state; this 2020 decision repeals an 18 year-long ban on gay marriage, set forward in 2002, and states that marriage be recognized as “between couples regardless of gender.” Passed with a majority of over 60% of voters, it is amazing to see – through this amendment – that the public opinion in Nevada has changed drastically over almost two decades.
It is unlikely that Obergefell v. Hodges would be overturned or severely altered; however, now that the Supreme Court sits at a 6-3 conservative majority with the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Nevada’s state constitution adds another level of protection for same-sex and genderqueer couples. This is especially reassuring seeing that as recently as this year, dissenting judges from that 2015 decision continue to voice their criticisms.
In October. 5, the Supreme Court unanimously refused to hear a repeal from Kim Davis, the Rowan County clerk who was sued after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2015, an objection she based on her Christian views. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito issued a statement reiterating their criticism for Obergefell v. Hodges, particularly that the decision would “threaten the religious liberty” of Americans who staunchly believe marriage to be between a man and a woman and allow “religious adherents” to be branded as “bigots.”
This may be another instance where the lines between church — specifically the Christian church — and state in the U.S. have been blurred. While it is important to protect the freedom of all religions in our country, religion should never be used as an excuse for bigotry, and the marriage rights of same-sex or genderqueer couples should not be infringed upon legislatively in the name of any religion, especially those they may not even adhere to.
As previously mentioned, the 2020 decision to uphold marriage as a union regardless of gender is a monumental moment for the LGBTQ+ community. Although marriage equality is currently protected through the Supreme Court, this decision also affords a level of support for same-sex couples based on principle, and more states should follow in Nevada’s footsteps.
Gay rights are human rights, and they should be treated accordingly by being protected and acknowledged under the constitution of each state. It is time that we move away from compulsive heteronormativity in legislature and afford marriage protections to all state constituents regardless of their sexuality.