Victory! Ninth Circuit Strikes Down Marriage Ban for Same-Sex Couples in Nevada and Idaho

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October 7, 2014
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Lambda Legal plaintiffs Mary Baranovich and Beverly Sevcik

Today in a unanimous decision the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit struck down discriminatory marriage bans for same-sex couples in Nevada and Idaho.

The decision comes just one month after Lambda Legal argued on behalf of eight Nevada couples and their children in the case Sevcik v. SandovalIdaho couples are represented by Boise attorney Deborah A. Ferguson and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

The Ninth Circuit held:

The lessons of our constitutional history are clear: inclusion strengthens, rather than weakens, our most important institutions. [...] When same-sex couples are married, just as when opposite-sex couples are married, they serve as models of loving commitment to all.

Love Unites US: Nevada

Tara Borelli, Senior Attorney at Lambda Legal who argued the case before the Ninth Circuit, said:

We are so pleased that wedding bells will finally ring for all same-sex couples in Nevada. Based on the Ninth Circuit’s clear instructions to the trial court, we expect that couples will be able to marry soon.

Governor Sandoval and Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover withdrew their briefs in support of the marriage ban after the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in SmithKline Beecham v. Abbott Laboratories that discriminatory classifications based upon sexual orientation must receive heightened scrutiny and should be presumed unconstitutional. The withdrawal of the two government defendants left only the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage, which the U.S. District Court had allowed to intervene, defending the state’s marriage ban.

Lead plaintiff Beverly Sevcik said:

We are just so delighted that finally, after 43 years together, we will soon be able to get married and celebrate our love for and commitment to each other with family and friends in the state we have long called home.

Mary Baranovich, Beverly Sevcik's partner, said:

When Bev and I met, I must admit we never thought this day would come. But now it’s here, and how sweet it is.

In Sevcik v. Sandoval, Lambda Legal, joined by pro bono co-counsel from O’Melveny & Myers LLP and Snell & Wilmer LLP, represents eight same-sex couples challenging Nevada’s law banning marriage for same-sex couples. A U.S. District Court judge rejected the federal constitutional claims made in the lawsuit in November 2012, and Lambda Legal appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit.

Today’s ruling overturned that District Court ruling and found denying same-sex couples access to marriage violates their right to equal protection of the law.  Concurring opinions agreed and also concluded that the states’ marriage bans violate due process and unconstitutionally discriminate on the basis of sex as well as sexual orientation. This decision will also pave the path to marriage equality in other Ninth Circuit states, including Arizona, Alaska, and Montana.

Read the press release.