Ruth Hackford-Peer, right, and Kim Hackford-Peer, standing next to her, are married by Rev. Curtis Price, left, while hugging their two children Riley Hackford-Peer, back middle, and Casey Hackford-Peer, bottom middle, in the lobby of the Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office in Salt Lake City on Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. A federal judge ruled on Friday that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, which was upheld Monday.
Last week, our gay and lesbian friends and family got a surprising gift, courtesy of an unlikely source: the Beehive State, Utah, next door to Nevada. The state prohibition on same-sex marriages was declared unconstitutional there.
This gives Utah a leg up on Nevada in the civil rights arena. It is not just disgraceful that we would now lag behind most of our neighbor states in marriage equality for gays and lesbians. It’s silly, bigoted and it impairs our ability to market our primary product, tourism and recreation and, not incidentally, marriages.
Utah has a lot going for it – beautiful landscapes, hardworking and friendly people, good schools – but enlightened attitudes towards gay and lesbian relationships have not historically been among the state’s attributes. This has something to do with the political domination of the state by a socially conservative religious organization that frowns on anything weird that doesn’t belong to the group.
It should be noted that 18 states plus the District of Columbia now recognize same-sex marriages, which essentially give life partners the same rights that traditional hetero couples take for granted – things like the right to make medical decisions if a life partner is incapacitated, to visit them in the hospital, to share in community property.
First, allow us a brief history lesson: Nevada has historically been a live-and-let-live state, conservative in some aspects but relatively protective of civil rights. But there’s always been a streak of reactionary loopiness to our history, as well. In 2000 and 2002, voters by about a two-thirds margin instituted a constitutional ban on same sex marriages in the Silver State. But since then, times have changed, the country has changed, your uncle/aunt/cousin/brother or sister has come out, and Nevada has changed. In 2009, Nevada passed a law allowing same-sex “civil unions” over the veto of conservative love-child Governor Jim Gibbons, who was otherwise busy proving his heterosexual bona fides with women who were not his wife in text messages and parking garages. Because family values.
But civil unions, however welcome, are not marriage. Marriages involve family, recognized commitments, “mazel tov!” and expensive ceremonies. (See, we’re going somewhere here…) Nevada GETS expensive ceremonies. We ENCOURAGE expensive ceremonies. We PROFIT from expensive ceremonies.
So if we, you know, could get off our duffs, recognize that our family and friends are people who form life-long commitments, or hell, two-week-long commitments, and that those commitments (life-long, two-week, or some temporal variation) deserve our respect and opportunity to honor with really expensive ceremonies in drive-through chapels and churches all over Las Vegas, we could make money. While doing the right thing.
That combination seems really, seriously, profoundly like something we should do. Right thing, plus make money.
Because that’s what we do, here in Nevada. We respect and honor the decisions that people make, especially when those decisions provide the opportunity to make money hand over fist.
We’re not naïve. The decision in Utah came from a federal court, which ruled our neighbor’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Certainly, a federal prohibition on such bans would affect Nevada as well, but that’s going to be a protracted battle. While we agree with the judicial ruling on this, because we believe that the Constitution applies to gay people as well as straight people, because we are hippies, we hope that Nevada will move as quickly as possible to do the right thing and get rid of this ugly ban.
You, the elected officials of Nevada, can help move that opportunity forward, by providing the leadership that you promised when we voted you into office.
Your snarky friends among the CityLife staff