On November 3, 2020, voters in Nevada will decide a ballot measure to repeal the state’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Instead, the ballot measure would define marriage as between couples regardless of gender and state that religious organizations and clergypersons have the right to refuse to solemnize a marriage.
The measure makes Nevada the first state to ask voters to repeal language prohibiting same-sex marriage from a state constitution.
Nevada is one of 30 states with a constitutional provision prohibiting same-sex marriage and/or defining marriage as between one man and one woman. In Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state bans on same-sex marriage as violating the U.S. Constitution. The language prohibiting same-sex marriage remained in the state constitutions.
Nevada was the third state to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
A citizen-initiated constitutional amendment in Nevada needs to be approved at two successive general elections. Question 2 was approved by almost 70 percent of voters in 2000 and approved again by 67 percent of voters in 2002.
The legislative process of amending the Nevada Constitution takes around four years and occurs over two legislative sessions. After Democrats took control of the state Legislature in 2016, legislation was introduced to repeal Question 2. The first version of the legislation, which didn’t include the provision stating that religious organizations can refuse to solemnize a marriage, received support from Democrats, along with one Republican. The final version received support from Democrats and three-quarters of Republicans in 2019.
The 2020 ballot measure is the second constitutional amendment referred to the ballot during the legislature’s 2019 legislative session. The legislature could refer an additional five amendments that were passed in 2017, which need approval again before the legislature adjourns on June 3. The potential measures include a minimum wage increase, a constitutional right to certain voting procedures and policies, and a constitutional right to medically-necessary emergency care and services.
As of May 24, 28 statewide ballot measures had been certified for the 2020 ballot in 15 states.