Freshman assemblyman and former Marine Elliot Anderson is drafting two gay-rights bills to bring to the 2013 Legislature when it begins in February. Here he talks about how his perspective on same-sex marriage has changed and why domestic-partnership cards, though controversial, are a good idea.
You’re hoping to bring two bills to the 2013 legislative session. One is to overturn Nevada’s same-sex marriage ban, and the other is about domestic-partnership cards. Can you tell me more about those bills?
One is the gay-marriage one. Assemblyman Tick Segerblom is also on the bill. I want to give voters another chance to look at this question. I think it’s really important that we allow equal chance for marriage in this state. I believe that the voters — there are signs that the voters have really begun to change their minds on the issue. And also I believe it’s really important that we allow this so we can get more business into the state from LGBT travelers.
The last time gay marriage was voted on was 2000 and 2002. How have people’s minds changed since then?
I think people have had more exposure and have gotten to meet more people who are openly gay. I know that that has changed a lot of opinions. I know my opinion on the issue changed when I got to know folks who were gay. I know what it did to my opinion on the issue. I wasn’t able to vote here in 2000 and 2002. I was in the Marine Corps. But I know that it would have changed my vote having known folks who are gay.
What have your experiences been meeting gay people and becoming more informed on the issue?
I had just never met anyone that was gay. I didn’t have a frame or reference knowing anyone who was actually gay. It’s a lot easier to take away someone’s rights if you don’t know them. It’s a lot easier to not really care. I don’t think a lot of people really cared that they [gay people] were having their rights taken and didn’t have a right in the first place. The more people have gotten to know folks who are gay, the more they realize it’s not that big of a deal. People are like, “Why were we upset about this?”
When did you meet a gay person for the first time?
Was it on the street? Were you introduced? What were the circumstances?
Working in politics. That’s where it happened.
Your second bill is about domestic-partnership cards. Can you tell me more about it?
There was a couple that had an issue in one of the hospitals in Las Vegas. They weren’t able to get access to make medical decisions. They were told they needed a power of attorney. I wanted to draw attention, first of all, to providers across the state that they really need to be doing this. They really need to allow people the same rights that the law says. [Also], I want to make sure there’s no questions about the law if they don’t understand it. It’s sort of an idea to raise awareness if people are in the hospital and providers have any questions.
A Review-Journal editorial said that your heart was in the right place when it came to this bill, but having a card-carrying system would also imply a second-class citizenship status. Have you heard that? Has that changed your opinion?
I understand that perspective. That makes sense to me. But I would note that I am trying to make it the same, so everyone can be the same, so everybody just gets a marriage license and nothing else. Secondly, I would note that the state does not issue marriage licenses. I am a state assemblyman. … I’m trying to fix a state issue and not get too far into telling the counties what to do. I do understand that concern, and I do agree with the editorial in a way — they shouldn’t have to. But it’s just a way to try to raise awareness about domestic partnership law.
Has anyone expressed interest in the cards? What have you heard from people?
It was actually the couple that was in the paper that suggested it. I said, go ahead and suggest a bill draft and see if it works out. Even if it doesn’t go through, people are talking about it now, and I’m happy people are talking about it. My whole point is to raise awareness on the law. I’m just happy with anything that raises awareness about the domestic-partnership law so that we avoid situations like that one.
Going back to the couple in the hospital. You said they were told they needed a power of attorney form. If power of attorney would solve the problem, why would they need a domestic-partnership card?
Getting a power of attorney is a hassle. Not all power of attorneys look the same. It’s a legal document and people aren’t always legally trained. Not only that, but that state has told them, “You don’t have to [get a power of attorney]. We have this [domestic-partnership] law.”
And I should say that I did talk to the hospital involved, but I left the conversation confident that their policies are done correctly. It looks like it was a mistake of an employee. I have faith that the hospital is in compliance going forward.
Why do you feel passionate about these issues?
It’s just because the first folks that I met who are gay, I’ve really become very close friends, and that’s what is lighting the fire with me on this issue. I’d like to emphasize that there’s a sign that people have really changed their minds. This will really provide a boost to our gaming industry and economy, and I feel like all people are created equal. That’s what our founding documents say, and our Constitution says they’re entitled to equal protection of the laws.