Look out Vermont...

Kinda big but not really news last week in Carson City: the Nevada Senate - the grooviest Senate - approved the Domestic Partnership Act, placing similar responsibilities on and granting similar rights to domestic partners as spouses.

(Wow. Run-on sentence.)

It is kinda big because, as Vermont demonstrated recently, gay marriage will have to be resolved by elected legislatures rather than by courts. I could've told you this years ago, but nobody listens to me.

It is not really big because it is clearly just a work-around of Nevada's Constitutional amendment recognizing marriage as only between a man and a woman.

Whatever. None of that really interests me. What does interest me, tho, are the vote patterns. First, a quick overview: the Act, (SB 283, currently) creates the civil contract of domestic partnership and extends to it almost all the same legal status as marriage. The one exception - and it is a big one - is that public employers are not required to extend health care benefits to domestic partners. Likely, this was key to getting the bill thru the Senate, where two of its key supporters would have blanched at the possibility of people forming partnerships to bilk the State out of millions in health care coverage.

Those two supporters were Republicans Mike McGuiness and Randolph Townsend. Two Dems also voted against the bill, John Lee and Terry Care. None of that is shocking.

Before the bill passed, though, Senator Bill Raggio gave a shot at torpedoing it with an amendment. This time honored parliamentary tactic is used with special gusto in Nevada, where creative legislators choose not to write poison pills, so much as potentially-interesting pills. They're like ecstasy dealers at a club, challenging the limits of their colleagues' self-control.

Raggio's amendment was pretty ingenious. It didn't gut the bill, it reworked its tone from the embrace of domestic partnership to to the tolerance of it. For example, the bill states that
"domestic partners have the same rights, protections and benefits, and are subject to the same responsibilities, [...] as are granted to and imposed upon spouses."
Raggio proposed changing this to,
"Parties to a contract of the type described in subsection 1 of section 6 of this act have substantially the same rights, protections and benefits, and are subject to the same responsibilities, [...] as are granted to and imposed upon spouses."


And if you're wondering, those "substantially similar" rights were
  • Inheritance
  • The planning of funerals
  • The right to make medical decisions
All of which, I assume, can be easily established in a will. So Raggio's amendment would've been the emptiest of gestures.

How did it fare on the floor? It lost, 11 - 10. But since the final bill passed 12 - 9, somebody took Raggio's bait and almost derailed the whole thing. That person was Senator Maggie Carlton, who voted both for Raggio's amendment and the final bill.

That might've been an oversight by Senator Carlton, but every Republican - including the two who ultimately allowed the bill to pass - also voted for Raggio's not-quite-poison pill. Moreover, both Democrats who voted against the bill also voted against the amendment. To me, this suggests that it was a coordinated strategy to lure Democratic supporters, like flies happily meandering into a venus fly trap. Raggio damn near pulled it off.

Now the bill has to go to the Assembly, where Nevada's greatest public servant will, I'm sure, have something nice to say.

1 comment:

Mr Lee said...
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