LGBT rights in Nevada

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Map of USA NV.svg
StatusLegal since 1993, age of consent equal since 2013
Gender identityState does not require surgery to change gender on birth certificate
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsSame-sex marriage legal since 2014 (court order)
Domestic partnerships legal since 2009

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the U.S. state of Nevada enjoy the same liberties experienced by non-LGBT Nevadans. Same-sex marriage has been legal since October 8, 2014, due to the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Sevcik v. Sandoval. Same-sex couples are also allowed to legally adopt, and Nevada law prohibits unfair discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, among other categories, in employment, housing and public accommodations. In addition, conversion therapy on minors is outlawed in the state, as well as the gay panic defense.

Although same-sex couples may marry, they also have access to a domestic partnership status that provides many of the same rights and responsibilities as marriage. However, domestic partners lack the same rights to medical coverage as their married counterparts and their parental rights are not as well defined.


Among the Native Americans, perceptions towards gender and sexuality were very different to that of the Western world. The Northern Paiute people, for instance, recognize male-bodied individuals who act, behave and live as women, known as tüdayapi. Such individuals are known as tüwasawuts among the Southern Paiute.

Nevada adopted a criminal code in 1861 establishing a sentence of five years' to life imprisonment for sodomy. In 1912, the Supreme Court of Nevada held that fellatio constituted a criminal offense. As was the case for such laws around the United States, Nevada's sodomy law criminalized both heterosexual and homosexual oral sex and anal intercourse. It did not, however, criminalize lesbian acts. In 1951, the minimum penalty of sodomy was reduced to one year imprisonment, but the maximum penalty of life imprisonment was retained. This was changed again in 1967 when it was reduced to one to six years. Furthermore, under a 1961 sex offender registration law, those convicted of sodomy had to register with the local sheriff or chief of police and report any change in address. Over the years, the courts convicted multiple people of sodomy, almost consistently upheld by higher courts, and a challenge to the sodomy law on the grounds of vagueness and unconstitutionality was rejected in 1969. In 1973, 1976 and 1978, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that cunnilingus, masturbation in front of a witness and licking a penis were violations of the sodomy statute.[1]

In 1977, the Nevada Legislature amended the state's sodomy law, redefining the act as "anal intercourse, cunnilingus or fellatio between consenting adults of the same sex", thus legalizing heterosexual activity but also making sexual activity between women illegal for the first time in Nevada's history. The penalty of one to six years' imprisonment remained.[1]

Legality of same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Nevada decriminalized sodomy in 1993, ten years before the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas struck down laws that criminalized private consensual sexual activity. Senator Lori Lipman Brown introduced Senate Bill 466 on May 13, 1993, to decriminalize what the statutes called "infamous crime against nature". At hearings, two doctors linked repealing the sodomy laws with a public health measure to combat the stigma and spread of HIV. Other supporters included Reno Rabbi Myra Soifer, former senators Helen Foley and Jean Ford, gay rights advocate Lee Plotkin, and progressive activist Bob Fulkerson. Opponents included Janine Hansen of the Nevada Eagle Forum and Independent American Party of Nevada and Lynn Chapman who said that repealing the sodomy laws would increase the spread of HIV/AIDS and would "open the floodgate ... in legalizing, condoning and recognizing homosexuality to be on an equal footing with heterosexuality" and lead to "such things as homosexual marriage and adoption of children."[2] In the course of the legislative process, the words "infamous crime against nature" were replaced by "anal intercourse, cunnilingus or fellatio in public".[3] Other amendments, including one to require sex education in schools to provide "factual information regarding the dangers of such activities" of "a homosexual lifestyle or the infamous crime against nature" were defeated.[4][5] Democratic Governor Bob Miller signed the legislation on June 16, 1993 and it went into effect on 1 October, 1993. But the age of consent for same-sex sexual activity was unequal and set 2 years higher at 18. However, it was finally made equal at 16 in line with heterosexuals, 20 years later on 1 October 2013, when the Nevada Legislature passed and the Governor of Nevada signed into law SB388.[6][7]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Nevada voters approved Question 2, an amendment to the Constitution of Nevada that banned same-sex marriage, by 69.6% in 2000 and 67.1% in 2002.[a]

On May 21, 2009, the state Legislature passed the Domestic Partnership Responsibilities Act 2009 to grant both opposite-sex and same-sex couples many of the responsibilities, obligations, rights, entitlements and benefits of marriage under the designation "domestic partnership" rather than "marriage". Governor Jim Gibbons vetoed the legislation, saying he did not personally oppose rights for domestic partners but felt he needed to respect the voters' wishes on the question.[8] On May 30 and 31, both the Assembly and Senate overrode his veto.[9] The law went into effect on October 1, 2009. It exempted both private and public employers from having to provide medical coverage for the domestic partners of their employees even if they did so for their employees' married spouses.[10] Whether other jurisdictions will recognize a Nevada domestic partnership is uncertain, as are some parental rights normally held by married couples.[11] Even in Arizona, the status of domestic partner can be misunderstood and is not always recognized as the equivalent of marriage.[12]

On April 10, 2012, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit, Sevcik v. Sandoval, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada on behalf of eight same-sex couples, claiming that Nevada's categorization of same-sex domestic partnerships consigns same-sex couples to "a lesser, second-class status" and constitutes a violation of the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection.[13][14] Chief Judge Robert Jones ruled on November 29 that Nevada's denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples does not violate the Equal Protection Clause. Lambda Legal said it would appeal the decision.[15] On October 7, 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Question 2, explicitly reversing Judge Robert Jones' district court ruling thus, making same-sex marriages legal.[16]

Since July 1, 2017, Nevada's marriage statute incorporates gender-neutral language, thereby explicitly recognizing same-sex marriage in state law.[17] Efforts to amend the state Constitution to remove the 2002 language banning same-sex marriage will be on the Nevada ballot in November 2020.[18][19][20][21]

Federal income tax[edit]

The Internal Revenue Service ruled in 2013, based on the Supreme Court DOMA ruling, that same-sex individuals who have been married in any state where same-sex marriage is legal may file their federal returns as married filing jointly regardless of state of residency.

Discrimination protections and anti-bullying laws[edit]

During the 1999 Legislative Session, the Legislature added prohibition of discrimination based on a person's actual or perceived sexual orientation in public and private employment and public accommodations to state law. In the 2011 Legislative Session, Governor of Nevada Brian Sandoval approved and signed into law three bills, A.B. 211, S.B. 331, and S.B. 368 which prohibit discrimination in areas of employment, housing and public accommodation on the basis of "gender identity or expression." S.B. 331 also prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex at public accommodations, and S.B. 368 also prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. All three laws took effect on October 1, 2011.[22][23]

In May 2015, an anti-bullying bill, SB 504, passed the Nevada Legislature.[24] Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed the bill into law days later.[25] The bill went into full effect on July 1, 2015.[26][27] It explicitly includes "actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability of a person, sex or any other distinguishing characteristic or background of a person" as protected grounds. The law directs the Department of Education to prescribe policies for schools to address bullying and cyberbullying, procedures for reporting and investigating, requirements for parent notification and provisions to train teachers and staff to properly address bullying.

In May 2017, the Nevada Legislature passed and Governor Brian Sandoval signed into law SB188. This law added "sexual orientation" and "gender identity or expression" throughout the rest of Nevada statutes, alongside race, disability, creed, sex, religion, marital status, domestic partnership status, age, etc. The law went into effect on July 1, 2017.[28]

Hate crime law[edit]

Nevada law provides additional penalties for the commission of crime because of certain actual or perceived characteristics of victim. In 2001, Nevada amended its hate crime law to include sexual orientation, without addressing gender identity or expression.[29] In 2011, Senator David Parks introduced S.B. 180 to add "gender identity or expression" to Nevada's hate crime law. One Democrat, John Lee, voted with the Republicans and the bill failed.[30] In 2013, S.B. 139, which would add "gender identity or expression" to Nevada's hate crime law, was introduced by a bipartisan group and passed the Senate on a vote of 20-1. Senator Joe Hardy, the only vote against the legislation, later said that he should have voted in favor of S.B. 139 after talking with Senator Pat Spearman, the Legislature's first out person of color, a pastor and military veteran.[31] The legislation passed the Assembly on a vote of 30-11 on May 14.[32] Governor Brian Sandoval signed the legislation on May 21, 2013.[33] The new law took effect on October 1, 2013.[34]

Adoption and parenting[edit]

Same-sex relationships have not been a legal barrier to adoption or parenting in the state, though only since 2017 has state law reflected that same-sex couples have the same parental rights as heterosexual couples.[17]

Additionally, lesbian couples have access to IVF treatments, and gestational surrogacy arrangements for gay male couples are allowed.[35]

Gay panic defense[edit]

In May 2019, the Nevada Legislature passed (House vote 36-3 and Senate vote 19-2) a bill to repeal and abolish the gay panic defense. On May 14, Governor Steve Sisolak signed the bill into law and it will go into effect on October 1, 2019.[36] Nevada joined several other states in doing so, including California and Illinois, among others.[37][38]

Conversion therapy[edit]

In 2017, SB 201 was introduced and passed committee by a vote of 4-1 and a floor vote of 15-5 in the Nevada Senate to ban conversion therapy on minors.[39][40] The bill was voted on by a Nevada House of Representatives committee 9-2 and a floor vote of 31-8 on May 9.[41] The Nevada Senate concurred to the amended version on the same day. The bill was signed by Governor Brian Sandoval on May 17,[42][43] and went into effect on January 1, 2018.

HIV taskforce[edit]

In May 2019, the Nevada Legislature (House vote 37-3 and Senate vote 21-0) passed a bill to establish a HIV taskforce in Nevada and other related HIV legal reforms. The Governor signed the bill into law and it went into effect immediately.[44]

Gender identity and expression[edit]

Since 2016, the Nevada Vital Records will issue a new birth certificate with a corrected gender marked upon receipt of two affidavits reflecting an individual's preferred gender.[45] Sex reassignment surgery is not required to change gender on birth certificates.[46] In May 2017, SB110 passed the Nevada Legislature by (unanimous consent in both houses and a Governor's signature) to abolish and repeal the 1988 requirement for transgender people to publish their names in newspapers, before they can undergo legal changes of sex on government documents.[47]

On June 22, 2017, Governor Sandoval vetoed a bill requiring all insurance companies in Nevada to cover all sexual reassignment surgery costs, among other things.[48][49]

Since April 2019, the Department of Motor Vehicles has provided a "third gender" designation (known as "X") on driver's licenses and state ID cards.[50]

Public opinion[edit]

A July 2011 Public Policy Polling survey found that a plurality of voters in the state supported same-sex marriage. 45% of Nevada voters thought that same-sex marriage should be legal, while 44% thought it should be illegal and 11% were not sure. A separate question on the same survey found that 77% of Nevada voters supported the legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 39% supporting same-sex marriage, 38% supporting civil unions but not marriage, 22% favoring no legal recognition and 2% not sure.[51]

An August 2012 Public Policy Polling survey found that a plurality of voters in the state supported same-sex marriage. 47% of Nevada voters thought that same-sex marriage should be legal, while 42% thought it should be illegal and 11% were not sure. A separate question on the same survey found that 80% of Nevada voters supported the legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 40% supporting same-sex marriage, 40% supporting civil unions but not marriage, 17% favoring no legal recognition and 2% not sure.[52]

A February 2013 poll found majority support for same-sex marriage among Nevada voters. The Retail Association of Nevada poll found that 54% were in favor of it, 43% were opposed, and 3% had no opinion on the matter.[53]

A September 2013 Retail Association of Nevada poll found that 57% of Nevada voters favored same-sex marriage, while 36% were opposed. 6% were unsure.[54]

A 2017 Public Religion Research Institute poll found that 70% of Nevada residents supported same-sex marriage, while 23% were opposed and 7% were unsure.[55]

Public opinion for LGBT anti-discrimination laws in Nevada
Poll source Date(s)
Margin of
% support % opposition % no opinion
Public Religion Research Institute January 3-December 30, 2018 472 ? 68% 26% 6%
Public Religion Research Institute April 5-December 23, 2017 832 ? 73% 21% 6%
Public Religion Research Institute April 29, 2015-January 7, 2016 690 ? 74% 21% 5%

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1993)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 2013)
Anti-discrimination laws in all areas Yes (Since 1999 for sexual orientation only in employment; since 2011 for both sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in all other areas)
Same-sex marriages Yes (Since 2014)
Recognition of same-sex couples (e.g. domestic partnership) Yes (Since 2009)
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2014)
Joint adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2014)
Lesbians, gays and bisexuals allowed to serve openly Yes (Since 2011)
Transgender people allowed to serve openly X
Gay and trans panic defense banned Yes (From October 1, 2019)
Conversion therapy banned on minors Yes (Since 2018)
IVF access for lesbian couples Yes
Third gender option Yes (Since 2019)
Right to change legal gender Yes
MSMs allowed to donate blood Yes/No (Since 2015; 1 year deferral period)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Amendments to the Constitution of Nevada must be approved twice by voters if initiated by the people, or twice by the Legislature and once by voters if initiated by the Legislature.


  1. ^ a b The History of Sodomy Laws in the United States: Nevada
  2. ^ Minutes of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, 67th Session, May 24, 1993
  3. ^ Journal of the Nevada Senate, 67th Session, May 26, 1993, pp. 897–9
  4. ^ Journal of the Nevada Assembly, Volume 2, 67th Session, June 14, 1993, pp. 1145–47
  5. ^ Journal of the Nevada Assembly, Volume 2, 67th Session, June 14, 1993, pp. 1147–1151
  7. ^ SB388
  8. ^ Vogel, Ed (May 25, 2009). "Gibbons vetoes domestic partner bill". Las Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved August 10, 2012.
  9. ^ "Nevada Lawmakers Reject Veto of Domestic Partnership Bill". Fox News. May 31, 2009. Retrieved August 10, 2012.
  10. ^ Friess, Steve (June 1, 2009). "Nevada Partnership Bill Now Law". New York Times. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  11. ^ "Domestic Partnerships in Nevada". LGBT Topics. ACLU of Nevada. Retrieved May 23, 2013.
  12. ^ Vogel, Ed (August 19, 2012). "Same-sex couple in Henderson upset with hospital's treatment". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved May 23, 2013.
  13. ^ Geidner, Chris (10 April 2012). "Lambda Legal Files Federal Lawsuit Seeking Marriage Equality in Nevada". Metro Weekly. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
  14. ^ "Court to Hear Lambda Legal's Nevada Marriage Case". Lambda Legal. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
  15. ^ Johnson, Chris (November 29, 2012). "Nev. federal court rules against same-sex marriage". Washington Blade. Retrieved November 30, 2012.
  16. ^ BREAKING: Ninth Circuit strikes down Idaho, Nevada same-sex marriage bans
  17. ^ a b "Sandoval signs bill codifying right to same-sex marriage in Nevada". NBC My News 4. 26 May 2017. Archived from the original on 28 May 2017.
  18. ^ Same-sex marriage bill would alter Nevada Constitution language
  19. ^ "Nevada Assembly OKs marriage equality amendment". Northern Nevada Business View. April 1, 2019.
  20. ^ Lyle, Michael. "Ballot question on state constitution's same-sex marriage ban coming in 2020". Nevada Current. Retrieved 2019-05-24.
  21. ^ "Nevada AJR2A | 2019 | 80th Legislature". LegiScan. Retrieved 2019-05-24.
  22. ^ Vogelreview, Ed (2011-05-24). "Sandoval signs transgender job discrimination bill". Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  23. ^ Ryan, Cy (2011-06-02). "Bill targeting Strip arena among 27 signed by governor, 4 vetoed". Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  24. ^ Legislature approves anti-bullying bill backed by Sandoval
  25. ^ Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval signs anti-bullying legislation
  26. ^ SB 504
  27. ^ AB 112
  28. ^ SB 188
  29. ^ Nevada-Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Documentation of Discrimination
  30. ^ NV SB180 | 2011 | 76th Legislature
  31. ^ Ryan, Cy (March 21, 2013). "Nevada Senate votes to cover transgender people under hate crimes statute". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved May 23, 2013.
  32. ^ "Nevada Assembly passes transgender hate crimes bill – LGBTQ Nation". 2011-04-12. Retrieved 2013-11-02.
  33. ^ Whaley, Sean (May 21, 2013). "Sandoval signs transgender hate crime bill". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved May 22, 2013.
  34. ^ "SB139". Retrieved 2013-11-02.
  35. ^ Nevada Laws on "Surrogacy / Gestational Agreements"
  36. ^ "SB97".
  37. ^ "NV SB97". Legiscan.
  38. ^ Glauert, Rik (17 April 2019). "Nevada moves towards banning 'gay panic' defense". Gay Star News.
  39. ^ SB201
  40. ^ LGBT Bills Pass Nevada State Senate, Assembly
  41. ^ Conversion therapy bill could soon head to Nevada governor
  42. ^ Sandoval’s signature makes Nevada 8th state to ban conversion therapy
  43. ^ Governor signs ban on conversion therapy for minors
  44. ^ "Nevada Senate Bill 284". LegiScan.
  45. ^ "Nevada Birth Certificate Laws". National Center for Transgender Equality.
  46. ^ State eases process to change gender classification on birth certificate
  47. ^ SB110
  48. ^ Governor vetoes law that prevents transgender health discrimination
  49. ^ AB408
  50. ^ "Gender 'X': Nevada to allow nonbinary people to self-identify on IDs". NBC News. April 22, 2019.
  51. ^ Public Policy Polling: "NV supports prostitution, gay marriage, but not online poker," August 5, 2011, accessed August 10, 2011
  52. ^ Public Policy Polling: August 28, 2012, accessed August 30, 2012
  53. ^ "54% Support Repealing Ban On Marriage Equality In Nevada". Gayapolis News. Retrieved 2013-02-26.
  54. ^ "Nevada Poll" (PDF). RAN. Retrieved 2014-01-04.
  55. ^ Consulting, Epicenter. "PRRI – American Values Atlas".