State Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, announced this morning that he is supporting legislation that allows gay and straight couples to form domestic partnerships. That was after a number of residents publicly urged him to back the bill.
"This was not an easy decision to make, but I am confident it is the right decision," Campos said in a statement. "The phone calls, e-mails and letters I received from people on both sides of the issue proved invaluable in my decision-making process."
He said he expected the legislation would come before the state Senate in days.
Campos noted that the legislation doesn't legalize same-sex marriage, which he said he opposes.
He said that while the legislation gives domestic partners most of the rights of married couples, one exception is that the bill doesn't change the tax status of unmarried couples.
"For me, this social justice issue is one of equal rights. In today's world, it simply makes sense that unmarried couples, including senior citizens, who are committed to supporting each other, should have the same rights and responsibilities as married persons, such as having automatic visitation rights at the hospital and being able to participate fully in funeral plans," Campos said in the statement. "The institution of marriage is very important and sacred to me, and this legislation does nothing to diminish that. Rather, it gives couples who cannot or do not want to marry a legal way to make a lifetime commitment to each other."
Two area state representatives, Richard Vigil, D-Ribera, and Thomas Garcia, D-Ocat, both voted against domestic partnership legislation earlier this week. They were in the minority; the House voted 33-31 for the measure.
Both men said they had received many calls urging them to oppose the bill.
Garcia said it's important to weigh his constituents' concerns about issues.
He said he had questions about the domestic partnership bill in the House.
"One sentence may be different, and I may be for it," he said.
Vigil called it an important issue and said he was responding to his constituents' concerns.
Jesse Lopez, a former student body president at Highlands University, said he was upset with Vigil and Garcia's votes. He stressed that the legislation helps both straight and gay people, even though some groups are trying to
say it's about gay marriage.
"To deny this is wrong. It's about perpetuating hate. They're trying to make this a religious, moral debate," he said.
Lopez said he and others had sent more than 100 cards to Campos from residents expressing support for domestic partnerships.
On Thursday, Las Vegas City Councilman Louie Trujillo said he fully supported the domestic partnership legislation.
"I have encouraged many people in Las Vegas to call (Campos') office. He has probably received close to 100 calls," the councilman said.
He said some Christian organizations are getting out-of-state people to bombard legislators with calls.
"They don't vote for them (lawmakers); we vote for them," Trujillo said.
"This legislation doesn't cost the state a single penny."
The bill would give domestic partners the right to get medical coverage through their partner's insurance plan or a right to visit a partner in a hospital. It would also give partners the right to take family medical leave to care for a partner who is ill, property rights in a partner's pension and inheritance rights.