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Lawmakers Turn to Gay Rights in Nevada

March 30, 2009

Carson City, NV – Under current law, hospitals can deny gay Nevadans visits with their ailing partners, and transgender people can be denied medical treatment and descriminated against when seeking work. State lawmakers are currently debating three measures that would change these scenarios.

Advocates are making their first push for a measure that would allow gay couples to register as domestic partners. Michael Ginsburg is gay and working with the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN). He says the domestic partners legislation, Senate Bill 283, the "Nevada Domestic Partnership Act," would give gay couples some legal, property and visitation rights.

For example, Ginsburg says, because Nevada gives only family members the legal right to make a hospital visit, gay couples can be shut out at the hospital door until they are afforded domestic partnership status as legal family members.

"I've been with my partner for 16 years. God forbid something should happen and one of us wind up in the hospital, but if it did, we have no right to go and see each other."

Opponents call the measure marriage by another name. They say it conflicts with the state constitution, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Ginsberg says gay Nevadans would gain some legal rights and a sense of belonging with this bill's passage, but they still would be ineligible for more than 1,100 federal benefits available to married Americans.

Lawmakers also are debating legislation to determine if the state's public accommodations law should be updated to include transgender people. The law governs a person's right to housing, social services and even hospital treatment, Ginsberg explains.

"We had a woman - a 'trans-woman' - who went into the hospital emergency room with a broken leg. The staff ridiculed her. They basically turned her away and told her that she should probably seek treatment elsewhere."

The measure, Senate Bill 207, would amend the state's public accommodations law to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The third piece of legislation, Assembly Bill 184, would add transgender Nevadans to the state law regarding discrimination by employers.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV