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Lambda Legal and Nevada Government Defendants File for Summary Judgment in Sevcik

On the same day, Lambda Legal and the Sevcik plaintiffs file a motion for summary judgment with the district court, as do Governor Brian Sandoval and the other governmental defendants.  In their briefs, the two sides ask Judge Jones to rule in the case in their favor without taking the suit to the trial phase.

The plaintiffs, in their motion, argue that Baker v. Nelson should not be seen as a controlling precedent, especially since the Ninth Circuit declined to dismiss the Prop 8 case because of Baker in its ruling striking down Prop 8.  In addition, Lambda Legal and the plaintiffs argue that classifications based on sex and sexual orientation (like Nevada’s marriage equality ban) should be considered under heightened scrutiny, since gays and lesbians demonstrate many of the characteristics laid out by the Supreme Court in support of such a determination (for example, a long history of suffering discrimination).

Furthermore, the plaintiffs assert, even if the most deferential rational basis test is used to consider Nevada’s marriage laws, there is no rational governmental interest in limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples only.  The plaintiffs write that a desire to maintain the traditional definition of marriage in itself is not enough to uphold the marriage equality ban’s constitutionality and that prohibiting gays and lesbians from marrying does nothing to promote “responsible procreation.”

In his motion for summary judgment, Governor Sandoval argues that Baker should be considered binding precedent and thus prevent the court from considering the Sevcik case, and he asserts that rational basis is the proper standard of review for Nevada’s marriage laws.  Under rational basis review, he goes on to posit, the burden of proof falls on the plaintiffs, and the court may “rationally speculate” as to any reasonable governmental intention for passing the law in order to uphold it.

In addition to Governor Sandoval’s motion, the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage files its own motion for a summary judgment upholding the marriage laws.  In its brief, the Coalition writes that if Nevada were to “give up” the “mere word” of marriage to gay and lesbian couples, it would by necessity also have to give up the very identity of the institution of marriage as an opposite-sex union.  Domestic partnerships, the Coalition asserts, are enough to protect same-sex couples and their children.

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