Lambda Legal on Friday filed its opening brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in a case on behalf of eight same-sex couples challenging the amendment to Nevada’s constitution and other state laws banning marriage for same-sex couples.
The appeal asks the Court to overturn a decision last year by U.S. District Judge Robert C. Jones in Reno, who ruled that Nevada has a legitimate state interest in maintaining the traditional institution of marriage.
Jones, a George W. Bush appointee who is Mormon, ruled that the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws does not “prohibit … the People of the State of Nevada from maintaining statutes that reserve the institution of civil marriage to one-man–one-woman relationships,” and warned that marriage rights for LGBT people could lead to “an increased percentage of out-of-wedlock children, and single-parent families … or other unforeseen consequences.”
Lamba Legal argues that Nevada’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and relegates same-sex couples “to only a second-class status.”
“After the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Nevada’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples has become exponentially more harmful to same-sex couples who are barred from a sweeping array of federal benefits as well,” says Tara Borelli, Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Western Regional Office.
In its appeal, Lambda Legal says that the state “holds the key to access for the sweeping array of spousal rights and responsibilities available under federal law, and keeps them locked away from same-sex couples under the marriage ban.”
“Nevada inflicts virtually the same collection of federal harms and deprivations on unmarried same-sex couples as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) previously did, since nearly all federal benefits are unavailable to unmarried couples, regardless of whether they are registered domestic partners.”
Nevada is one of more than two dozen states that have constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers took a first step to repeal the 2002 voter-approved ban. The proposal must pass again in the 2015 Legislature and be ratified by voters in 2016.