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Nevada Lawmakers Advance Three More Transgender Rights Bills

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Friday April 22, 2011

The Nevada State Assembly approved a measure on Monday, April 18, that would add transgender-specific protections to the state's employment non-discrimination law.

Assembly Bill 211, which local activists have dubbed the Nevada ENDA, will now go before the state Senate. The bill's passage came 10 days after Senate Commerce and Labor Committee members voted 4-3 for a bill that would bar hotels and motels from discriminating against a person based on their gender identity and expression. The committee also approved a measure-Senate Bill 368-that would ban discrimination against prospective tenants and homeowners based on their gender identity and expression.

"This is a historic start and I'm proud of Nevada and my legislators for being ahead of the curve on so many issues," said Derek Washington, chair of the Stonewall Democratic Club of Southern Nevada. "People think this is a really conservative state, but we have a really great relationship with our legislators here and they really listen to our community here."

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4-3 on March 17 to advance a bill that would add gender identity and expression to Nevada's hate crimes law. Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) re-introduced the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act earlier this month, but it remains highly unlikely the measure will pass in the Republican-controlled House during this Congress.

Back in Nevada, Gov. Brian Sandoval has not indicated whether he will sign any of these measures. Trans activist Jane Heenan told EDGE she remains optimistic that the governor will allow these bills to become law if they reach his desk.

"I'm hopeful they will move forward through the legislative process and that Gov. Sandoval will be open to not vetoing these important civil rights protections," she said, noting the activism around these measures has helped to unify Nevada's LGBT activists. "As we've found in working with the legislature; in meeting with the governor, we're hopeful we find a way to communicate 'Look; we're decent, hard working folks.' [We're] creating a Nevada that's reflective of all its citizens."

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.