Lambda Legal Files Federal Lawsuit Seeking Marriage for Same-Sex Couples in Nevada
(Las Vegas, April 10, 2012) – Lambda Legal today filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Nevada on behalf of eight same-sex couples challenging Nevada’s constitutional ban on marriage equality, which relegates them to only a second-class status.
“Every day that same-sex couples in Nevada are denied marriage equality, the government sends a message that their families are not worthy of equal dignity and respect,’” said Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Tara Borelli.
In the lawsuit, Lambda Legal, joined by pro bono co-counsel from O’Melveny & Myers LLP and Snell & Wilmer LLP, argues that the Nevada constitutional amendment barring same-sex couples from marriage violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The lead plaintiffs, Beverly Sevcik, 73, and Mary Baranovich, 76, of Carson City, 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 proud grandmothers of four grandchildren.
“We’ve been together for almost 41 years. We’ve seen each other through thick and thin, in sickness and in health,” Sevcik said. “After four decades of sharing a life together, all we want is to show our love for each other as other couples do, through marriage.”
“Nevada’s prohibition on marriage for same-sex couples serves no legitimate state interest, a fact the state even acknowledged by creating a parallel, but less respected, legal status of registered domestic partners,” Borelli said. “The ban on marriage equality brands these loving couples and their children as second-class citizens, and encourages private bias and discrimination.”
“Our firm cares deeply about the issue this case raises and its potential impact on the people of Nevada, especially the amazing plaintiffs in this case whom we have come to know and for whom we have a great deal of respect,” said Carla Christofferson, Managing Partner of O’Melveny & Myers LLP’s Los Angeles office. “O’Melveny’s commitment to pro bono representation, as well as to LGBT rights, is part of the fabric of our firm, and we feel fortunate to be working with Lambda Legal on this matter.”
The other plaintiffs in the case are: Antioco Carrillo and Theo Small of Las Vegas, who have been together since 2006; Fletcher Whitwell and Greg Flamer of Las Vegas, who have been together for 14 years and adopted a baby girl last year; Karen Goody and Karen Vibe of Reno, who have been engaged since 2005; Mikyla and Katie Miller of Reno, who are expecting a baby girl in July; Adele Terranova and Tara Newberry of Las Vegas, who are raising two children; Caren and Farrell Cafferata-Jenkins of Carson City, who have been together for 15 years and are raising two sons; and Megan Lanz and Sara Geiger of Las Vegas, who have been together since 2004 and have a daughter.
“Today’s filing represents a critically important step in the campaign for marriage equality in Nevada,” said Candice Nichols, Executive Director of the Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada. “Nevada is justly celebrated as a destination for couples seeking to get married. It is ironic and hurtful that the very institution that brings thousands of non-Nevadans to our state every year is denied to some residents of this state. The Gay and Lesbian Center stands behind these brave couples and their fight to enable lesbian and gay Nevadans to enjoy all that this beautiful state has to offer.”
Lambda Legal attorneys Jon Davidson, Tara Borelli, Peter Renn and Shelbi Day are handling the case, joined by Carla Christofferson, Dawn Sestito, Melanie Cristol and Rahi Azizi of O’Melveny & Myers, and Kelly H. Dove, Marek P. Bute and Andrew Jacobs of Snell & Wilmer.
Press contact: Tom Warnke, Cell: 213-841-4503: Email: [email protected]
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.