Participants in the Gay Pride Parade in downtown Las Vegas on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)
With an eye on the work still to be done, Silver State Equality celebrates LGBTQ+ legislative wins
Nevada once again leads the way in advancing LGBTQ+ civil rights and social justice for underserved and marginalized communities. While many legislatures across the country have codified their prejudices by attacking LGBTQ+ rights, the Nevada Legislature in 2021 stood strong, passing voter protection legislation; de-criminalizing HIV; improving healthcare access; increasing support for LGBTQ+ owned businesses, and more.
It’s a great feeling when hard work pays off. That’s especially true when that work involved a coalition of dedicated individuals and organizations working toward a common goal to create a better world that is just, healthy and fully equal for all LGBTQ+ Nevadans.
Silver State Equality is thankful to have joined forces with such organizations as Battle Born Progress, the Governor’s Advisory Task Force on HIV Exposure Modernization, Planned Parenthood, Silver State Voices and the Nevada Office of Minority Health and Equity, to name just a few. A special thank you also goes to state Sen.s Dallas Harris and Pat Spearman, who spent endless hours working to push through pro-equality legislation. And Nevada owes a debt of gratitude to former state Sen. David Parks, who spent decades working on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community and launched much of this work in the Legislature before his retirement in 2019. Together, we’ve enacted some of the strongest statewide civil rights protections for LGBTQ+ people in the nation.
One of the more significant wins for the LGBTQ+ community in the 2021 legislature was Senate Bill 275, which modernizes the state’s HIV laws. The legislation repeals a provision in Nevada law that made it a category B felony for a person who tested positive for HIV to “knowingly or willfully engaging in a manner intended to transmit the disease.” Passage of the bill places the HIV virus clearly in the realm of public health codes where it belongs, eliminating the stigma and fear that discourages testing and treatment.
Among other priority bills passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Sisolak are SB211, which requires Nevada healthcare providers to ask patients 15 years and older whether they want an HIV and STD test, and SB190 and SB235, which empower pharmacists to prescribe and provide over the counter birth control and HIV prevention medication.
Other important bills passed this session include SB237, which designates LGBTQ+ businesses as minority-owned businesses, and Senate Bill 148, which enhances how Nevada law enforcement tracks and reports hate crimes allowing for better data on sexual orientation and gender identity. SB109 requires state and local governments to collect sexual orientation and gender identity demographic information while allowing respondents the option to decline to provide the information when asked.
We also can’t overestimate the importance of AB261, which represents a significant and meaningful change in school curriculum standards that takes into consideration the perspectives and contributions of marginalized groups such as the LGBTQ community, Black community, people of color, indigenous people and immigrants. In addition, AB115 allows more than two individuals to be legal parents and further allows for all consenting parents to share in the duties and responsibilities of raising the child, a move that reflects and supports today’s modern families.
Silver State Equality also applauds passage of bills that clearly speak in support of Madisonian democracy. AB321 makes Nevada the sixth state to adopt a permanent vote-by mail-system. The bill requires all county and city clerks to send every active registered voter a mail ballot before a primary or general election. In addition, we celebrate AB286, which bans the sale and manufacturing of Polymer80 guns in Nevada.
There are two transgender specific bills that did not pass. One bill would have required insurance to cover services related to gender dysphoria (SB139), and another would have provided equal rights and protections to inmates who are transgender (SB258).
While we took a moment to celebrate our 2021 legislative successes, we’re clear-eyed in regard to the hard work ahead. We stand together in support of the U.S. Equality Act, which has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is awaiting a vote in the Senate. Here at home, Silver State Equality continues to back pro-equality and LGBTQ+ ally candidates throughout Nevada, cognizant that educational outreach to rural Nevada is essential lest we risk losing support in the Nevada Legislature.
André C. Wade is state director for Silver State Equality.
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