Progress On Marriage Equality In Nevada And Rhode Island

There were advances in the marriage equality fight yesterday at two different end of the country. First, out in Nevada, the State Senate approved a bill to repeal the states ban on same-sex marriage and sent it on to the State Assembly:

WASHINGTON — Late Monday, the Nevada Senate became the first legislative chamber in the country to vote to overturn a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex couples from marrying.

After a little more than an hour of debate in which one senator publicly declared that he was gay for the first time, the Nevada Senate voted 12-9 to repeal the state’s 2002 amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman and replace it with language requiring the recognition of all marriages between two people, “regardless of gender.”

In addition to out LGBT Sens. David Parks and Pat Spearman, Sen. Kelvin Atkinson declared on the floor during the debate, “I am a black, gay male.” Because he was speaking about his sexual orientation publicly for the first time Monday night, he said he had heard negative comments about the marriage amendment repeal from others prior to the vote. But, he said, “People should mind their business and allow people to do what they want to do.”

This is only the beginning of a somewhat long process. Next, the bill goes to the State Assembly. If approved there, it must again be approved by both houses of the legislature again in its 2015 session, and then, if approved again, it would be submitted to the voters in the 2016 election. But, it’s a start.

Meanwhile, across the country in Rhode Island, every single Republican member of the State Senate has endorsed the bill pending in that state to legalize same-sex marriage:

In Rhode Island, an entire delegation to the state Senate backs gay marriage — and it’s the Republicans.

Rhode Island Public Radio reports that all five Republican members of the state’s upper chamber will support a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in the state.

The state House voted in favor of gay marriage earlier this year; it’s now before the  Senate Judiciary Committee and could see a vote in the full Senate by the end of the week. The regional chapter of the National Organization for Marriage has threatened to unseat Senate Minority Leader Dennis L. Algiere (R) over the vote.

The bill legalizing same-sex marriage has already been passed by the lower house of the Rhode Island Legislature and yesterday was approved by a Senate committee and sent to the full Senate for a vote today, where it is expected to pass. Legalization of same-sex marriage seems to be on a much faster track here, and it seems that Rhode Island will join the rest of New England in this regard.

Update: As noted in the comments, there was also movement on same-sex marriage in Delaware yesterday:

DOVER, Del. — The state House on Tuesday narrowly approved a bill legalizing gay marriage in Delaware, barely a year after the state began recognizing same-sex civil unions.

The measure cleared the House on a 23-to-18 vote and now goes to the Senate, where supporters and opponents expect another close vote.

Democratic Gov. Jack Markell has promised to sign the bill if it passes the Democrat-led legislature.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Markell, who met with supporters of the bill in his Legislative Hall office immediately after Tuesday’s vote, which saw five Democrats break ranks with their party and oppose the measure.

Rep. Michael Ramone of Newark was the only Republican to vote for the bill.

Under the proposal, no new civil unions would be performed in Delaware after July 1, and existing civil unions would be converted to marriages.

Supporters say couples in same-sex relationships deserve the same dignity and respect afforded to married couples.

“It’s about equal status,” said Mark Purpura of Equality Delaware, a gay rights group that drafted the legislation.

Opponents argue that same-sex marriage redefines and destroys the institution, and that same-sex couples in civil unions already have all the rights and benefits under state law that married couples have.

“What benefits are same-sex couples missing that this state can’t help them with?” asked Rep. Stephen Smyk, a Sussex County Republican.

Purpura noted that if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars legally married gay couples from receiving federal benefits, civil unions would not provide any protections or tax benefits under federal law to same-sex couples in Delaware.

The Democrats also control the State Senate, so passage seems quite likely.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Moosebreath says:
  2. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Yep, the entrenched opposition to gay marriage in Rhode Island is almost entirely within the Democratic Party at this point. An odd turn of events.

  3. stonetools says:

    My goodness, Rhode Island found some sensible Republicans! Truly, we live in amazing times!
    Make no mistake, those Nevada Senators are showing some poltical courage in being openly and outspoken gay and pro-gay rights in a no more than purple state,. Kudos to them.

  4. Tyrell says:

    “progress” : that really depends on a person’s opinion.