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Law Passed on Nevada Domestic Partnership: Same As Gay Marriage?

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By Javier Lavagnino, Esq. on June 01, 2009 1:28 PM

CNN reports that Nevada is legalizing domestic parterships in the state. The state assembly had to overcome a veto from Nevada's governor Jim Gibbons, and did so in a 28-14 vote. The question that is probably on most people's mind is whether this would have the same effect as legalizing same sex marriage. This might be particularly on people's minds in light of last week's court decision in California, which up held an amendment banning same sex marriage.

CNN noted that the law would "extend most of the rights given to married couples to couples in domestic partnerships, including those of the same sex." However, some might argue this is a bit of a stretch. According to UPI, despite the new law, "[e]mployers are not required to offer healthcare and other benefits to domestic-partner couples, but may if they wish."

In other words, if employers wish to bear the extra expense of provided coverage for individuals and/or families in domestic relationships, they can opt to do so. The reality of the matter is that a Nevada gay marriage ban passed via constitutional amendment in 2002, much like California's widely-reported-on Prop. 8. In light of Nevada's constitutional ban, would a law providing _all_ of the benefits of marriage to same sex couples would be unconstitutional?

Although the answer to that question is unclear, the N.Y Times reports that "State Senator David R. Parks, a Las Vegas Democrat and the only openly gay elected official in Nevada, obtained legal opinions from legislative lawyers stating that the domestic partnership registry was not the equivalent of marriage." That said, opponents of the domestic partnership legislation are reportedly weighing their options.

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