Probably one of the biggest Nevada stories of 2009 was SB 283 becoming law. Sure, it's not marriage... But it's something so new for Nevada. For once, we've become somewhat of a leader on LGBTQ equality. On May 31, 2009, "Luv-Guv" Gibbons' veto was overrode and Nevada became the first Mountain West state to recognize LGBTQ relationships and offer "marriage-like rights".
OK, so those "marriage-like rights" still don't ensure health care benefits for everyone and they still do nothing at the federal level. That's the problem, but hopefully one day this will change and these "marriage-like rights" will actually become full civil marriage equality.
But in the mean time, let's reflect on SB 283 with this piece I wrote here back in August.
(Also at the Stonewall Blog)
As we've been talking about for some time, SB 283 will officially become law on October 1. This will bring about some major changes in the law, mostly helping us. However, there are some things that we need to remember. Secretary of State Ross Miller hasn't yet updated the Nevada SoS site to include a domestic partnership page (as California's SoS does)
First off, David Parks wasn't joking when he said that this is NOT marriage. While SB 283 provides for domestic partnerships (DPs) that are supposed to treat "domestic partnered" couples just like married spouses, let's remember that this theory doesn't always work out in practice. So while we celebrate the first major advance in civil rights in Nevada in decades, let's keep working toward the final goal of true civil marriage equality.
Probably the most significant reminder of the challenges LGBT families face in this state is the section of SB 283 considering workplace health care benefits. Simply put, employers are NOT required under Nevada law to provide health care benefits to domestic partners of employees as they do to other employees' married spouses. Fortunately it is at least optional, so you'll continue to receive DP benefits at work if your employer already provides them. And if your employer doesn't yet provide DP benefits, you can still try to convince them to do so. Just don't expect the State of Nevada to make them do so... At least until we can improve the DP law.
Nonetheless, SB 283 will change Nevada law for the better for our families. One major example of this will be in family law. Specifically, child custody laws will be improved to make it easier for gay & lesbian couples looking to have children to do so. And considering the current headaches LGBT families with children have, this is quite a welcome development.
And in many other matters, our families will receive more legal protections. Hospital visitation (should the partner become ill) will be easier. Community property laws will apply to domestic partners. State tax benefits currently afforded to married spouses will also be extended to domestic partners.
But again, we must stress that DPs under SB 283 are not marriage and will not be treated by the federal government as such. Even if you and your partner file for a DP this fall, you will still not be able to file a joint federal tax return. You won't be able to receive any spousal benefits from the military or the VA. You won't be able to sponsor your partner for US citizenship or permanent residency if he/she is a foreign national. Unfortunately, DOMA still applies here as it does across the nation. This is why it's crucial that not only Nevada law change to give our families full equality, but that federal law change as well.
I hope this helps answer some of the questions you may have about SB 283 and its imminent implementation. I'll keep the Stonewall site updated with any new information from the Secretary of State, as well as new legal opinions on what will and will not be covered by SB 283.