Ninth Circuit Hears Oral Argument in Lambda Legal Case Seeking Marriage for Same-Sex Couples in Nevada

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“As we have seen at oral arguments around the country—including today—those trying to defend marriage bans have run out of any answers that can justify ongoing state discrimination against same-sex couples.”
September 8, 2014
Tara Borelli
“As we have seen at oral arguments around the country—including today—those trying to defend marriage bans have run out of any answers that can justify ongoing state discrimination against same-sex couples.”

(San Francisco, September 8, 2014) – Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments in Sevcik v. Sandoval, Lambda Legal’s lawsuit challenging Nevada’s discriminatory marriage ban.

“We are very hopeful that wedding bells will be ringing soon for same-sex couples in Nevada,” said Tara Borelli, Senior Attorney at Lambda Legal who argued before the Ninth Circuit today. “As we have seen at oral arguments around the country—including today—those trying to defend marriage bans have run out of any answers that can justify ongoing state discrimination against same-sex couples.”

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 leaves only the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage, which the U.S. District Court had allowed to intervene, defending the state’s marriage ban.

“Nevada’s marriage ban is particularly vulnerable -- not only has the state itself refused to defend the ban but the precedent set by the Ninth Circuit requires laws targeting gay people to be automatically considered unconstitutional unless the state can prove that the discrimination is necessary,” Borelli added.

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. The lawsuit argues that barring same-sex couples from marriage violates the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. A U.S. District Court judge rejected the claims made in the lawsuit in November 2012, and Lambda Legal appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also heard arguments today in a marriage case in Idaho brought by Attorney Deborah Ferguson and our colleagues at the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

The lead plaintiffs in Sevcik v. Sandoval are Beverly Sevcik and Mary Baranovich of Carson City, who have been together more than 40 years, raised three children together, and are now the proud grandmothers of four grandchildren.  The other plaintiffs 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 more than 16 years and are raising two children; Karen Goody and Karen Vibe of Reno, who have been engaged since 2005; Mikyla and Katie Miller of Reno, who are raising two children; 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 more than 17 years and are raising two sons; and Megan Lanz and Sara Geiger of Las Vegas, who have been together since 2005 and have a daughter.

The case is Sevcik v. Sandoval: http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/cases/sevcik-v-sandoval

Lambda Legal attorneys Jon Davidson, Tara Borelli and Peter Renn are handling the case, joined by Carla Christofferson, Dawn Sestito, Dimitri Portnoi, Melanie Cristol and Rahi Azizi of O’Melveny & Myers, and Kelly Dove and Marek Bute of Snell & Wilmer.

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Contact Info

Press contact: Lisa Hardaway, 973-902-9298; lhardaway@lambdalegal.org

Erik Roldan, 312-545-8140; eroldan@lambdalegal.org

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