Nevada on verge of passing most far-reaching LGBTQ+ rights amendment in the US

A group of people march with pride balloons in Nevada

Nevada looks certain to pass an Equal Rights Amendment to guarantee LGBTQ+ rights.

The sweeping Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was put to voters in Nevada, and with 90 per cent votes reported (as of Friday 11 November), looks certain to pass.

At the time of writing, 57.8 per cent of voters had said yes to the measure.

Nevada’s ERA would amend the state constitution to ensure equal rights “regardless of race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, ancestry, or national origin”.

It would be the most expansive out of the 26 states that have ERAs.

The measure was co-sponsored by state senator Pat Spearman, a Democrat, who is the first out lesbian member of the Nevada legislature.

Spearman said that the measure would close loopholes left in previous legislation – such as age protections for older workers who were laid off during the pandemic, or identity protection for transgender people.

“And just like we questioned that today, and can’t believe it, there’ll be people in the future who will be saying, ‘It’s a really good idea. And I’m glad they did it. But I can’t believe that they had to do it in order to bring equality for everybody,’” Spearman told PBS.

Nevada’s measure is different than the push for a federal ERA, which can only be supported be states individually and is not ratified in the US constitution. The 26 states that have adopted their own versions of the ERA differ in protections.

Opposition to the measure exists, arguing mostly that it is vague and invites judicial discrepancies.

But when protections of marginalised groups are constantly threatened, the wide-ranging nature of Nevada’s ERA will be a welcomed certainty.

“(Laws) can be chipped away at or reduced,” Kate Kelly, an ERA-supporter and activist, said. “And we’ve seen that in the very recent past – statutory protections we thought were forever are being chipped away.”

Equal rights embedded in Nevada’s Constitution, however, would be much harder to overturn.

Nevada voters are also considering ballot measures to raise the state’s minimum wage, and implement ranked-choice voting – both of which seem currently likely to pass.