Given the heated debate and widespread outrage that occurred throughout the country after the owners of a pizzeria in Indiana told a reporter they would be opposed to catering a gay wedding, it’s no wonder that so-called “religious freedom bills” throughout the nation have also died. It’s no different here in Las Vegas and the rest of Nevada.
The Official Word from Governor Sandoval
According to a spokeswoman for the governor, the religious freedom bill was declared dead because current legislation already protects the rights of Nevadans. How supporters of the bill feel about this is another question, but it came as no surprise that the governor would move to distance his office from such controversial legislation. Even many of its sponsors have since backed away from it, agreeing with the governor that adequate protection already exists.
Many, including Erven Nelson, a freshman legislator representing Las Vegas, admitted that the controversy in Indiana definitely played a role.
Of course, this hardly puts an end to the national debate we referred to above. It won’t do much to quell the debate here in Las Vegas either. At the heart of the matter is what people believe are their inherent freedoms. On one side, there are those who believe it would violate their religion to in any way support people they believe are committing a sin. For some, this means catering gay weddings, creating cakes for the ceremony, etc.
On the other side of this debate are those who feel this amounts to discrimination, which therefore impedes their rights. While their greatest concern may not be receiving pizza at a reception, the fear is that this could be the beginning of a slippery slope. Would doctors, for example, be allowed to refuse treatment to a gay man if they were opposed to the individual’s sexuality?
Business in Las Vegas
A lot of people had their own reasons for opposing the bill: business. As everyone knows, the Silver State relies on tourism as one of its greatest economic resources. Over 46,000 people come to Nevada every year, so you can imagine what would happen to its economy if that number began to wane.
Nowhere is this truer than Las Vegas. Over the years, Las Vegas has become more and more welcoming to the gay community and many have noted that this may be because, on average, they spend a lot more money than their straight counterparts.
Sending a message to this community that businesses wouldn’t be welcoming to them could have landed a blow to Las Vegas just as it’s starting to get out of the footprint left by the recession. Many locals have pointed out that part of the appeal of doing business in this city is how easy it is to do so. Start adding laws that could complicate matters, and many may decide to simply look elsewhere.
Whether the bill had any merit to begin with is a matter for debate and one that will most likely reoccur sometime in the future. However, for the moment, Las Vegas locals, tourists and companies can return to business as usual.