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Nevada says it will no longer defend its constitutional ban on same-sex marriage

Monday, February 10, 2014

CARSON CITY, Nev. — In an about-face, Nevada has decided against defending its constitutional ban on same-sex marriages, the latest step in a series of battles being waged across the nation on the volatile issue.

NevadaNevada’s attorney general and governor said Monday that they won’t defend the state’s gay marriage ban pending before a federal appeals court, saying a recent court decision made the state’s arguments “no longer defensible.”

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto filed a motion with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that said Nevada’s legal arguments supporting the voter-approved prohibition aren’t viable in light of the court’s recent ruling that said potential jurors cannot be removed from a trial during jury selection solely because of sexual orientation.

“After thoughtful review and analysis, the state has determined that its arguments grounded upon equal protection and due process are no longer sustainable,” Masto said in a statement.

Nevada’s move comes as courts around the country and the federal government have chipped away at laws that prohibit same-sex marriage and benefits in recent months. Meanwhile, some states and interest groups have rallied to defend limiting marriage to between a man and a woman.

In a one-month span from December to January, two federal judges struck down state bans on gay marriage for the same reason Nevada dropped it case, concluding that they violate the Constitution’s promise of equal protection under the law.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican seeking re-election this year, said he agreed with the Democratic attorney general’s action.

“Based upon the advice of the attorney general’s office and their interpretation of relevant case law, it has become clear that this case is no longer defensible in court,” Sandoval said in an email to The Associated Press.

While it won’t mean the ban will be lifted immediately, the state’s move was hailed by gay rights advocates and civil libertarians.

“This is fantastic evidence the state has recognized that equality for all people in Nevada and certainly across the country is of utmost important,” said Tod Story, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada.

The state’s move was a reversal from January, when the attorney general’s office filed a lengthy brief supporting the gay marriage ban that voters approved in 2002.

Eight same-sex couples, some married for decades, sued the state, arguing that the law is unconstitutional. A federal judge in Reno upheld the law in 2012, sending it to the appeals court in San Francisco.

One of the plaintiffs, Caren Jenkins, said she was delighted by the development, though it doesn’t mean gay marriages are imminent in Las Vegas’ wedding chapels.

“This issue is far from resolved. The constitutionality issue still needs to be dealt with,” Jenkins said. “But it certainly is something to celebrate.”

Tara Borelli, senior attorney with Lambda Legal, a gay rights advocacy group that represented the couples, said Nevada’s move is “a signal there’s no longer any excuse to defend this discrimination.”

“I think it will send a powerful message to the court that no Nevada official is willing to defend the ban any longer,” she said.

Leaders with the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage, a conservative group that pushed for Nevada’s gay marriage ban, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

In an initial brief supporting the law, the state argued that Nevada’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman is a legitimate state interest, “motivated by the state’s desire to protect and perpetuate traditional marriage.”

But the same day Nevada’s brief was filed, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit issued a ruling in another case that changed the legal dynamics and left the attorney general’s office immediately rethinking the state’s position.

The court found that potential jurors could not be excluded from jury duty based on sexual orientation, extending to gays and lesbians a civil right that the U.S. Supreme Court has previously promised only to women and racial minorities.

Nevada lawmakers last year took the first step toward repealing the constitutional ban on gay marriage. If legislators approve Senate Joint Resolution 13 again next year, it would go to voters on the 2016 ballot.

Federal courts in other states have struck down similar bans, most recently in Utah and Oklahoma. Currently, 17 states allow gay marriage.

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97 more reader comments:

  1. YES!!!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:42pm
  2. (Y)

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:42pm
  3. Go Nevada, Go!!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:43pm
  4. This means soon Elvis will be hitchin’ up some gay people.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:44pm
  5. Oh hell no! No takesiez backsiez.They approved it once,they’ll approve it again.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:44pm
  6. Nice!!!!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:44pm
  7. What about ks

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:45pm
  8. finally some sense!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:45pm
  9. Get a clue Indiana.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:46pm
  10. This from the State of Las Vegas, Sin City. Why its not is not legal is a joke. Why cause gays do not sin the same way all of the st8 world sins in Las Vegas.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:47pm
  11. What happens in Vegas —

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:47pm
  12. Not anymore, bb! LOUD & PROUD!

    Replied on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:01am
  13. You can’t unring the bell Nevada.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:47pm
  14. Yay I’ve always wanted a drive thru wedding

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:47pm
  15. Its about time

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:47pm
  16. Who do they think go to all the Cher and Madonna concerts?

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:48pm
  17. Yea doesn’t make a lot of sense to ban gay marriage when polygamy is perfectly legal in Nevada.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:49pm
  18. and prostitution.

    Replied on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 4:43am
  19. right on

    Replied on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:08am
  20. and you can't really claim the whole "family values" thing when your state was founded on gambling and substance abuse.

    Replied on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:34pm
  21. What a Republican with a brain, and not trying erode freedoms and force people to live by a book most Republicans despise anyway. Now there’s something you don’t see every day.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:49pm
  22. Another step closer to Equality!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:49pm
  23. I can’t believe the people who are all like “yay” to this.
    Like really? Don’t like gay marriage? Don’t get one. Easy.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:49pm
  24. I think you misunderstood the article. This is good news for the LGBT movement.

    Replied on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:26am
  25. it is a double negative No Support to a ban = Positive

    Replied on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:34am
  26. What the fuck is a Bi- transgender , if you have a pole your a male if you have two hole your a female , enough said . and if you have one of each you're odd , a quirk of nature , misprint , Who fucking cares ?

    Replied on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:40am
  27. That double negative trips me up all the time...I seriously have to re-read the sentence three or four times before it makes sense in my head

    Replied on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:53am
  28. If you're not interested, Ben, then you don't need to be here, do you?

    Replied on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 4:23am
  29. OH! I'm silly. :P

    Replied on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 11:10am
  30. It’s about time.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:50pm
  31. ….IS IT JUST ME, OR IS THERE A POSITIVE DOMINO EFFECT TAKING PLACE :)??

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:50pm
  32. Gay weddings in Vegas?!?!? Fabulous!!!!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:50pm
  33. Woooooo hooooo! Hopefully marriage is legal here soon

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:50pm
  34. yay! thats so awesome

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:52pm
  35. Texas, you next!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:54pm
  36. No.....Nebraska NEXT!!!!!

    Replied on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:37am
  37. Hey Allan, look who have more like?

    Replied on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:43am
  38. John McClymond, I sure as hell hope so! I’m waiting patiently to marry my fiancé here in our hometown of Austin!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:55pm
  39. I’m not & I live in Nevada!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:56pm
  40. Yaay for the gays! Love you guys an gals straight, les, tranny, gay, whatever you are I love ya :)

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:56pm
  41. stop using the word "tranny." appropriate abbreviation is trans.

    Replied on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:46am
  42. I agree, Weston. I'll put it down to you not knowing any better, Jessica, but saying you love someone and then using a slur doesn't really jive, if you get what I'm saying....

    Replied on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 4:20am
  43. Jesus people, stand down!

    Replied on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:36pm
  44. Yeeeees!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:56pm
  45. Trash

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:59pm
  46. 2016 can’t come fast enough!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:59pm
  47. YES!!!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:06am
  48. good,now we can have meaningless unsanctified weddings as an option just like strait couples do,get drunk marry,and devorcethe next day.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:11am
  49. It’s about time

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:12am
  50. Audrey Gonyeau: you do realise this is a step towards SUPPORTING gay marriage, right? I know it’s confusing, with what is effectively a double negative.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:15am
  51. Yay, a win win for all.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:16am
  52. Well this years vacation will be Yellowstone. Unreal that wy is more liberal than nv ???

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:16am
  53. But if you don’t have three strippers pole dancing at the wedding it ain’t legal.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:20am
  54. FABULOUS!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:20am
  55. Cool

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:21am
  56. almost like bowling…

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:23am
  57. Yaaay hurry up for Nv

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:24am
  58. Then get off the page thank you.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:26am
  59. Falling like dominoes but when is Nevada going to allow ssm?

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:26am
  60. Finally.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:31am
  61. yahoo!!! stamp out prejudice this America after all land of the free??????

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:32am
  62. Woohooo! Good job ♥

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:38am
  63. No state is as
    Sleazy as Nevada.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:51am
  64. Last I checked “perpetuating traditional marriage” didn’t involve a drive thru or an Elvis..

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:58am
  65. Anyone who’s against equality for all Americans will find themselves on the wrong side of history !

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:59am
  66. Yay!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:10am
  67. super

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:10am
  68. #overit let them lose all that fabulous gay money

    #letthemeattheirbigotcake. but i kind of feel bad for them because they’re just scared to embrace the future.
    #toobadlosers #moviebitch #moveouttheway #moveoutthewaybitchmoveouttheway

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:12am
  69. I guess they realized the revenue we would bring!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:25am
  70. Awesome. Thank you

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:42am
  71. Florida , Next !

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:43am
  72. seriously the town that has glitz and musicals is against gay marriage that’s really MESSED UP!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:51am
  73. Good for them really for doing the right thing! Come on now!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:01am
  74. Seriously. The state that taxes prostitutes?
    Not that there is anything wrong with it.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:18am
  75. Love it! About time.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:39am
  76. Yes!!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:47am
  77. Awesome Nevada.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:01am
  78. About time.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:05am
  79. Good!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:30am
  80. Given that prostitution is legal (at least in some parts), it’s easy to forget that most of Nevada is pretty conservative.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:31am
  81. Well now I really really hate Vegas

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 4:07am
  82. Ok I’m sorry I didn’t know that was offensive I’m sorry meant no harm and my friend is trans and that’s what she calls it so I’m sorry I didn’t know any better :)

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 4:37am
  83. Boo.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 5:20am
  84. It will be interesting to see of one of those so-called “traditional marriage” groups try to assert standing to pursue the appeal. The Ninth Circuit hasn’t taken kindly to such arguments.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 5:23am
  85. So who is paying them to do this?????????

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 6:08am
  86. Prostitution yes !
    Gay marriage no?
    Its wierd!
    Time for a change!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:45am
  87. I won’t be spending my money in Vegas or any parts of NV. Vote w/ your $$$

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:05pm
  88. This is great news right?

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 12:47pm
  89. It’s even the point of hypocrisy when a city known for hook ups n a history of list married couples has ever tried to actually protect marriage by destroying the happiness of others.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:13pm
  90. I know somebody who will be very pleased to read this. ;)

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:44pm
  91. common sense sometimes takes time to prevail.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:55pm
  92. Well, of COURSE Nevada is doing this! All the wedding chapels in Vegas are missing out on all that money.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:01pm
  93. JACKPOT!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:02pm
  94. I still don’t want to live there-too hot.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:10pm
  95. The are losing all that marriage business!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:24pm
  96. YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:20pm