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Idaho, Nevada, Hawaii same-sex marriage cases go before appeals court

Idaho, Nevada, Hawaii same-sex marriage cases go before appeals court
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court on Monday is set to consider same-sex marriage bans in Idaho, Nevada and Hawaii. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled two hours of arguments Monday on whether such bans should be struck down in Idaho and Nevada.

Hawaii legalized same-sex marriage in December so that appeal may be dismissed.

The appeals court has previously ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in the California challenge to Proposition 8, a 2008 voter approved same-sex marriage ban.

Supporters of bans argue that states have an interest in promoting marriage between a man and a woman, which they say is optimal for childrearing. Opponents of bans counter that there is no data supporting the childrearing contention and they argue that the marriage prohibitions are unconstitutional.

The arguments are the latest at the federal court level where same-sex wedding proponents have gained numerous victories.

The cases before the Ninth Circuit are:

Jackson v. Abercrombie

In 2010, Natasha Jackson and Janin Kleid were denied a marriage license in Hawaii due to the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. The couple sued the state in federal court, but on August 8, 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Alan Kay rejected the plaintiffs’ claims and granted the state’s motion for summary judgment. The plaintiffs appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

A year later, marriage equality legislation passed the Hawaii state legislature and same-sex couples began marrying in Hawaii on December 2, 2013.

Despite same-sex marriage now being legal in Hawaii, the plaintiffs have not withdrawn their suit, and have pressed their appeal seeking to have the lower court’s order overturned.

Latta v. Otter

On May 13, 2014, U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale ruled that Idaho’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

In her ruling Judge Dale wrote, “Idaho’s Marriage Laws withhold from them a profound and personal choice, one that most can take for granted. By doing so, Idaho’s Marriage Laws deny same-sex couples the economic, practical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of marriage, relegating each couple to a stigmatized, second-class status. Plaintiffs suffer these injuries not because they are unqualified to marry, start a family, or grow old together, but because of who they are and whom they love.”

The case was brought by four same-sex couples represented by Boise attorneys and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).

Sevcik v. Sandoval

In Nevada, a group of same-sex couples, represented by Lambda Legal, are challenging Nevada’s marriage ban in federal court. The plaintiffs argue that Nevada’s denial of marriage to same-sex couples violates their rights to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution.

In November 2012, U.S. District Judge Robert C. Jones, a George W. Bush appointee who is Mormon, rejected the plaintiffs’ claims and upheld Nevada’s same-sex marriage ban. The plaintiffs appealed that decision to the Ninth Circuit.

In February 2014, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto announced she would no longer defend the state’s marriage ban, so an anti-equality organization called the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage intervened in defense of the ban.

The Ninth Circuit notified the group last month that it should be prepared to respond to questions regarding Article III standing in their arguments, as there are questions regarding whether it should have legal authority to defend the ban in court. In California’s Proposition 8 challenge, the Ninth Circuit ruled the proponents of Proposition 8 did have standing, but the U.S. Supreme Court later disagreed.

The three-judge panel slated to hear Monday’s arguments are:

  • Judge Stephen Reinhardt, appointed to the court in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter. Reinhardt wrote the opinion for the Ninth Circuit in Perry v. Schwartzenegger (later Hollingsworth v. Perry), in which the court ruled against California’s Proposition 8.
  • Judge Ronald M. Gould, appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1999.
  • Judge Marsha S. Berzon, appointed in 2000, also by President Clinton.
    • Arguments are scheduled for 1:00 p.m. PDT.

      Associated Press contributed to this report.

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