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Lambda Legal Files Marriage Equality Lawsuit in Nevada

Lambda Legal files a suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada challenging the state’s marriage laws and arguing that its denial of equal marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples violates their equal protection rights.  Nevada offers its citizens access to domestic partnerships that provide many of the benefits of marriage without the title, thanks to a law passed by the legislature in 2009 over the veto of then-Governor Jim Gibbons, a Republican.

The Sevcik suit, Lambda’s first action arguing for equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians, resembles the case made in California against Proposition 8 in the Perry trial, which led to historic rulings in favor of marriage equality at both the district and circuit court levels.  Like the Prop 8 case, Sevcik is filed in a district court that falls under the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Unlike the Prop 8 case, however, the Sevcik case bases its claims only on equal protection grounds, not due process grounds.  While the attorneys in the Prop 8 case made a due process argument that gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to share in the fundamental right to marry in addition to their equal protection argument, Lambda Legal’s suit only argues that it is an equal protection violation to offer marriages to heterosexual couples but only domestic partnerships to same-sex couples.

In explaining the decision to present just the equal protection argument, Lambda Legal attorney Tara Borelli says, “One of the reasons that we’re suing in the state of Nevada is that this is a particular equal protection problem that this case examines. It’s the kind of problem created where a state excludes same-sex couples from marriage deems them fit for all of the rights and responsibilities of marriage through a lesser, second-class status — in this case, domestic partnership. That shows just how irrational that state’s decision is to shut same-sex couples out of marriage.”

In its complaint, Lambda Legal writes that Nevada, “without any adequate justification, has deprived lesbian and gay Nevadans of the right to marry, or to have their valid marriages from other jurisdictions recognized as marriages, based solely on their sexual orientation and sex.”

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