Note from the Executive Director: We're Betting on Equality
By Kevin M. Cathcart
From Las Vegas to Cincinnati, we’re betting on equality here at Lambda Legal. In the past two weeks we launched two new federal cases.
Last week, we filed a federal case seeking the freedom to marry in Nevada. The lead plaintiffs, Beverly Sevcik, 73, and Mary Baranovich, 76, have been together for nearly 41 years and committed their lives to each other in October 1971. Together, they raised three children, and they are now grandmothers to their four grandchildren. They and the other seven couples we represent want the freedom to marry and the opportunity to honor the love and commitment they share.
Nevada violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution when it excludes same-sex couples from marriage, and relegates them to the lesser status of domestic partnership.
We concluded that this case was the appropriate next step in court after the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Perry v. Brown, California’s Prop 8 case. The new Lambda Legal lawsuit challenges the situation where a state, like Nevada, can no longer advance any reason for treating same-sex couples differently when it comes to marriage, since it provides all the rights and responsibilities to same-sex couples, yet withholds the honored designation of “married.”
How can it be fair that the state of Nevada allows different-sex couples to marry in Las Vegas after only hours together, when Beverly and Mary have been together 41 years and are barred from doing so? It’s not fair. There is no legitimate reason to do so under the law, and we intend to prove that in court.
If we prevail in court, thousands of same-sex couples in Nevada, and potentially those in other states with access to the rights and responsibilities of marriage but not marriage itself, will be able to marry the person they love, and the law will be further strengthened to fight for equality across the country.
Earlier this month, we also went to court on behalf of Maverick Couch a 16-year-old high school junior in Waynesville, Ohio, who was threatened with suspension from school if he wore his “Jesus Is Not a Homophobe” T-shirt. The school’s reason? The T-shirt, they say, is “sexual in nature.” We are arguing in federal court that the school has violated Maverick’s First Amendment right to free speech. The very next day after we filed the case, the school agreed to let Maverick wear his T-shirt for GLSEN’s national Day of Silence on April 20. We’re pleased with this news, but we won’t stop until Maverick has the right to wear his shirt on any day that he chooses. Rather than singling Maverick out for discipline, the school’s time would be better spent working on creating a welcoming environment for all students. If you haven’t already done so, visit our “Be a Real Maverick” Campaign page.
We’re extremely proud to represent all of our plaintiffs, who stand with us as we make the case for equality.