Gay marriage ruling sparks rally in Reno while opponents seek to keep Nevada's ban intact
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Gay marriage supporters rallied in downtown Reno last night to celebrate yesterday's historic Supreme Court rulings, which struck down key provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and ended the ban on same-sex marriage in California.
Dozens of cars honked in support as they passed by last night's crowd of more than a hundred gay rights activists gathered in downtown Reno. Speakers included Todd Eikelberger, the secretary for the Nevada chapter of the ACLU.
"This is the first time the Supreme Court has actually said that we are equal and that we deserve equal treatment."
Because of yesterday's rulings, same-sex couples in states allowing gay marriage are now eligible for federal benefits. Eikelberger says that along with such tangible progress for gay marriage advocates, he hopes that there will be other victories as well, including a decrease in suicide among gay teens.
"They're doing it because they feel the sense that they're different and that they don't fit in. And when we have more laws on the books, or rather, get rid of discriminatory laws, hopefully by seeing that equality it will lead to fewer suicides among people who think they can't handle it anymore because they're different and they don't want to be different."
Despite the changes in California and on the federal level, same-sex marriages are not legal in Nevada as voters passed a constitutional amendment back in 2002 banning them.
Janine Hansen, president of the conservative grassroots group Nevada Eagle Forum, was heavily involved in that effort. She says the Supreme Court's recent decisions are tragic because they have overturned the will of the people.
"This decision will have the most impact on future generations, especially those upcoming generations, because we've always in America held the standard high, and that is that it's best for children to grow up in a family with a mother and a father for them to have a happy future."
During the last legislative session, Senate Joint Resolution 13, which would end Nevada's ban on gay marriage, passed on both sides. In 2015, it will be up for another legislative vote, and in 2016, voters will make the final call. One person casting a ballot will be Yvonne Allen, a Reno nightclub manager who attended last night's rally, proudly presenting a bright, glittery sign to passersby.
"My sign says: ‘Let me go to the chapel.' I'm recently engaged and I would love to take my beautiful fiancée to a chapel and get a proper marriage with a proper marriage certificate and all the federal rights and privileges that heterosexual couples have, too."
As the celebrations start to die down, Allen and other supporters will begin organizing campaigns across the state in support of SJR 13. Their opponents will also be hard at work as the rest of the state and nation continue watching this debate unfold.