Gay rights group honors allies

Nevada’s only openly gay legislator offered advice at a gathering of human-rights advocates in Reno Thursday.

“I’d like to see us erase the term “same-sex,” said David Parks (D-Las Vegas). “Dispense with the use of that and use ‘same-gender’ instead.”

The term—often plunked down before the word “marriage”—is highly charged and powerful, he said.

“Religious fundamentalists love to hear and use ‘same-sex,’ ” Parks said. “The word ‘sex’ alone is a powerful word.”

A woman listening to Parks’ short talk turned to a friend.

“I never thought of that,” she said.

Parks, who sponsored legislation that led to a state non-discrimination policy for employers, received a Community Ally Award from Spectrum of Northern Nevada last week at the organization’s second annual Human Rights Night. Holly Wilson, founder of Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays’ Reno chapter, also received an award. About 80 people attended the ceremony at the Siena Hotel Casino.

Parks was elected to the Nevada Legislature in 1997, winning a three-way race to represent Assembly District 41. He’s been re-elected three times. During the 2003 session, he chaired the Assembly Taxation Committee.

The Parks-sponsored employment law passed in 1999 makes job discrimination based on race, gender, religion or sexual orientation illegal.

This year, Nevada legislators unanimously passed a law allowing patients to designate whom they’d like to visit them in the hospital. This effectively extends visitation rights to partners of gays, lesbians and other unmarried people.

These examples of progress, however, could lead to a backlash, noted Jay Davis, Spectrum president.

“How many of you would like to marry?”

Several hands in the mostly gay and lesbian audience went up.

“How many of you would like to eventually adopt?”

A few more hands went up.

“All these things are in jeopardy,” Davis said, because of the introduction of federal legislation “that has the enthusiastic backing of our president.”

The crowd hissed.

Also, more than two-thirds of Nevadans voted last year to continue to ban gay marriages in the state and not recognize gay marriages from other states.

“They’d like to permanently bar us from ever having the right to marry,” Davis said. “And make no mistake. This is not only about protecting heterosexual marriage, but about undoing gay rights altogether. … If you’re not angry, you’d better get angry.”