Two Anti-Discrimination Bills Pass State Senate

The Nevada State Senate today approved two anti-discrimination bills. SB331, a bill that would add protection against discrimination based on sex (gender) and also gender identity/expression to Nevada’s public accommodations law, was approved 11-10. If approved by the Nevada State Assembly and signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, Nevada would become one of about a dozen states with gender identity/expression protection in its public accommodations law. Nevada currently is one of only about a dozen states that does not have protection for sex/gender in it public accommodations law. SB368, a bill that would add protection against discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, was approved by the Nevada State Senate by a vote of 13-8.

“The votes of the State Senate are evidence of Nevadans wanting to protect all of its citizens from discrimination that no person should have to sustain in the United States. We look forward to favorable votes on these two bills by the Assembly, and—we hope—the governor’s signature,” said Dane S. Claussen, Executive Director of the ACLU of Nevada.

The State Senate rejected on Monday, by a vote of 10-11, a bill (SB180) that would have added gender identity/expression protection to Nevada’s hate crimes law. “This vote is unfortunate, as transgendered persons have been, and continue to be, victims of assault and other crimes in Nevada and throughout the United States. But the close vote is encouraging for similar legislation to be introduced to the 2013 Nevada legislature,” Claussen said.

The ACLU of Nevada worked diligently to pass SB331 and SB368 since they were introduced. The ACLU of Nevada, while opposed to hate crimes, did not support SB180 because, as originally drafted, hate crimes would have become an aggravating factor calling for the death penalty in murder cases. The ACLU of Nevada and the national ACLU oppose the death penalty in all circumstances. While the so-called “death penalty aggravator” language was later removed in committee by amendment, the ACLU of Nevada continued to be concerned about the bill’s possible First Amendment implications and, in fact, the ACLU of Nevada is generally opposed to language in various bills, laws, and policies-- also often found in anti-bullying bills and “hate speech codes”—which would or could limit First Amendment rights.