Lambda Legal on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Nevada on behalf of eight same-sex couples, challenging Nevada’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
According to the suit, Nevada’s ban on gay marriage violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and relegates same-sex couples “to only a second-class status.”
“Every day that same-sex couples in Nevada are denied marriage equality, the government sends a message that their families are not worthy of equal dignity and respect,’” said Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Tara Borelli.
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“Nevada’s prohibition on marriage for same-sex couples serves no legitimate state interest, a fact the state even acknowledged by creating a parallel, but less respected, legal status of registered domestic partners,” Borelli said.
“The ban on marriage equality brands these loving couples and their children as second-class citizens, and encourages private bias and discrimination,” she added.
The lead plaintiffs, Beverly Sevcik, 73, and Mary Baranovich, 76, of Carson City, have been together since October 1971, have raised three children together, and have four grandchildren.
“We’ve been together for almost 41 years. We’ve seen each other through thick and thin, in sickness and in health,” Sevcik said. “After four decades of sharing a life together, all we want is to show our love for each other as other couples do, through marriage.”
The other plaintiffs in the case 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 14 years and adopted a baby girl last year;
- Karen Goody and Karen Vibe of Reno, who have been engaged since 2005; Mikyla and Katie Miller of Reno, who are expecting a baby girl in July;
- 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 15 years and are raising two sons;
- Megan Lanz and Sara Geiger of Las Vegas, who have been together since 2004 and have a daughter.
“Today’s filing represents a critically important step in the campaign for marriage equality in Nevada,” said Candice Nichols, Executive Director of the Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada.
“Nevada is justly celebrated as a destination for couples seeking to get married. It is ironic and hurtful that the very institution that brings thousands of non-Nevadans to our state every year is denied to some residents of this state,” she said.
In 2009, the Nevada state legislature approved a domestic partners law that extended rights similar to those held by married couple, including community property and debt and the right to seek financial support after a breakup. The law does not require employers to provide insurance coverage to partners of employees.