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UPDATE: Appeals court delays arguments in challenge to Nev. gay marriage ban

Monday, March 10, 2014
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UPDATE: 5:15 p.m. PDT

A federal appeals court has postponed oral arguments on the challenge to Nevada’s gay marriage ban just hours after it had set the hearing for April 9. An order issued late Monday said arguments to be heard by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco would be rescheduled. No date was given.


CARSON CITY, Nev. — A federal appeals court will hear oral arguments early next month on the challenge to Nevada’s same-sex marriage ban, just days before another circuit considers other same-sex marriage prohibitions in Utah and Oklahoma.

NevadaA federal appeals court will hear oral arguments early next month on the challenge to Nevada’s gay marriage ban, just days before another circuit considers other same-sex marriage prohibitions in Utah and Oklahoma.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said Monday it will hear arguments April 9, making the Nevada case the first in the nation to be argued at the appellate court level since last year’s historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, according to Lambda Legal, a gay rights advocacy group.

“We’re very excited to make the case for equality at the 9th Circuit,” Jon Davidson, legal director at Lambda Legal, said in a statement.

Eight gay couples represented by Lambda Legal are challenging Nevada’s constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2002 that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. A federal judge in Reno upheld the law in 2012, prompting the appeal.

The Coalition for Protection of Marriage, a conservative group that pushed for the amendment and collected signatures to qualify it for the ballot, is the lone defendant in the case after Nevada’s attorney general last month said the law is indefensible in light of other federal court rulings.

Hearings also are set for April before the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The judges must decide if they agree with federal judges in Utah and Oklahoma who ruled those states’ same-sex-marriage bans violate gay and lesbian couples’ constitutional rights. The 10th Circuit Court will hear arguments in the Utah case on April 10. The Oklahoma hearing is scheduled April 17.

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Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto filed a brief supporting the state’s same-sex marriage ban in January on the same day the 9th Circuit issued a ruling in another case extending civil rights protections to gays and lesbians. The court ruled potential jurors cannot be excluded from jury duty based on sexual orientation.

Masto, a Democrat, said the legal analysis of that decision made Nevada’s law indefensible. After consulting with Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, the state withdrew its support of the law.

A resolution passed by the 2013 Legislature would repeal Nevada’s same-sex marriage ban. If approved by lawmakers again next year it would go to voters for ratification in 2016.

Follow this case: Sevcik v. Sandoval.

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