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Nevada Lawmakers Form LGBTQ+ Caucus to ‘Move State Forward’

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by Michael Lyle, Nevada Current
February 16, 2023

Nevada lawmakers have formed an LGBTQ+ Caucus and plan to bring back legislation bolstering rights for transgender and gender-nonconforming people. 

Democratic state Sen. Dallas Harris, who was elected Monday to serve as the first chair for the caucus, said legislative priorities for the group include bills that increase protections for trans inmates within the Nevada Department of Corrections and a gun violence prevention bill to ensure people who’ve committed hate crimes against the LGBTQ community can’t access guns. 

Some of the legislation being considered previously failed last session but Harris said the caucus is committed to seeing “if we can get it over the finish line.” 

Two failed bills carried in 2021 by Democratic state Sen. Melanie Scheible have been reintroduced.

Senate Bill 153, which is also sponsored by Harris, would require correctional facilities to adopt regulations addressing housing and security for transgender inmates. It is scheduled for its first committee hearing Feb. 22.

During the bill hearing in 2021, attorneys representing trans clients detailed allegations of abuse and assault in the absence of those protections. The bill died after receiving a $1.3 million fiscal note from NDOC.

Similarly, Scheible has brought back legislation, Senate Bill 163, to ensure trans and gender-nonconforming people can use health insurance to cover gender-affirming procedures such as “top surgery,” which includes breast reduction or removal.

During the previous session, Nevada modernized HIV criminalization provisions and repealed state law that made it a category B felony for a person who tested positive for HIV to “knowingly or willfully engaging in a manner intended to transmit the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.” 

Laws criminalizing HIV transmission were passed around the country in the ‘90s amid the HIV/AIDS epidemic prior to scientific innovations that prevent the spread of the disease.

Harris said she is working on legislation “to continue the HIV modernization work that we did last session.” A bill hasn’t been introduced yet. 

The creation of the caucus, Harris said, is a long-time coming.

Democratic Assemblywoman Sarah Peters, the caucus’ vice-chair, said in a statement Monday the group will “ensure that LGBTQ+ Nevadans are given a strong voice in the legislature and that our needs are heard and prioritized.”

Peters came out as pansexual in a 2021 Assembly floor speech during LGBTQ+ Awareness Week.

Harris credits the formation of the caucus to past openly out legislators, like former state Sen. David Parks, and for the legislation they brought forth that won advancements for the LGBTQ made in the state. 

Parks, who served in the legislature from 1997 to 2020, was Nevada’s first openly gay man elected into the legislature. He’s known for his work on legislation to prevent LGBTQ discrimination in housing and employment as well as protecting same-sax marriage. 

“Parks quietly did a lot of the work to make it so that people like me who grew up in Nevada felt welcome,” Harris said. “It wasn’t until I reached college that I recognized not everybody had that same experience.”

The formation of the caucus also comes as other Republican-led legislatures across the country are considering bills targeting the LGBTQ community, specifically transgender individuals.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, there were 315 anti-gay and anti-trans bills – a record number – introduced in 2022 that sought to restrict access to gender-affirming care, ban LGBTQ curriculum and prevent trans athletes from playing sports. 

And 2023 is no different.

During a national press briefing Tuesday, HRC said it was tracking 340 anti-LGBTQ bills this year.   

Bucking national trends, Nevada passed a ballot measure in 2022 codifying equal rights into the state constitution to ensure people can not be discriminated against based on “race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, ancestry, or national origin.” 

“We are so lucky to live in a state like Nevada that currently has a legislature that will not be considering any of those types of legislation,” she said. “For us, it’s about coming together and seeing how we can continue to move our state forward.”

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: info@nevadacurrent.com. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.