Federal Lawsuit Filed Seeking Marriage Equality in Nevada

Lambda Legal has filed a federal suit on behalf of eight gay couples in the state of Nevada, seeking marriage rights in the state, according to a scoop from Chris Geidner at MetroWeekly:

NVThe lawsuit, Sevcik v. Sandoval, marks the first time that Lambda Legal has sought equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples in federal court, although a staff attorney with the group, Tara Borelli, notes that another case filed by Lambda Legal in state court in New Jersey includes federal claims as well.

According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, the lead plaintiffs in the new lawsuit — Beverly Sevcik, 73, and Mary Baranovich, 76, of Carson City, Nevada — have been together for more than 40 years. As the complaint notes, "When Beverly and Mary committed their lives to each other on October 2, 1971 and bought rings to signify their relationship, they were careful not to purchase matching rings for fear of having their relationship discovered."

The couple, nonetheless, went on to raise three children and have four grandchildren, despite the constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2000 and 2002 limiting marriage in the state's constitution to "a male and a female person." Same-sex couples have been able to receive many of the same benefits and privileges of marriage but not the status itself, however, since the legislature passed comprehensive domestic partnership benefits over the veto of then-Gov. Jim Gibbons (R) in 2009.

LambdalogoThe legal group sees this lawsuit as a strategic step, in a state that permits domestic partnership:

Explaining the claim, 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 fact, Lambda Legal — with assistance from pro bono co-counsel from O'Melveny & Myers LLP and Snell & Wilmer LLP — has decided only to pursue an equal protection claim relating to the different treatment same-sex couples receive in Nevada and not a due process claim relating to the "fundamental right" to marriage. Both claims were raised in the Perry lawsuit.

Lambda Legal also acknowledged the precedent of AFER's lawsuit challenging Proposition 8 as a vital precedent for their work here.

Lambda Legal Files Federal Lawsuit Seeking Marriage Equality in Nevada [metro weekly]


  1. Disgusted American says

    Nevada – what a F’ng Joke…where basically any 2 hetero STRANGERS can marry, and be handed 1300 Federal RIGHTS on a Silver Platter….I wanna Vomit!

  2. says

    “Mixed emotions, as I know how hard many people fought to get the domestic partnerships passed.”

    The suit hinges on the domestic partnerships and how it is irrational for a state to decide that same-sex couples are capable of DP’s but not of marriage, so they were a crucial step in the process–in other words, all the fighting for DPs was not in vain.

  3. Bill S. says

    The general consensus in the legal community on Perry v. Brown when it was released pretty much seemed to be “The Supreme Court will deny cert to this case on the narrower grounds and this case only affects the circumstances specific to California.”

    Ever since the appelate ruling was released I have had serious doubts that this ruling should be limited only to California (I also don’t think it’s wise to brush off the possibility that the Supreme Court could very well accept this case). While California is the only state to have previously granted same-sex marriages then take away that right, this was not the aspect that the 9th Circuit actually found unconstitutional. Rather, this was merely the vehicle by which California’s current system of separate-but-equal family law was instituted.

    The 9th Circuit struck down this *system,* not the vehicle by which it was instituted. Indeed, I think the majority opinion (or perhaps it was the dissent, the PDF file is not searchable!) did cite a Supreme Court case where they did find it permissible for states to rescind state-level constitutional rights.

    The 9th Circuit found that, even assuming that giving all of the same state-level rights of married couples to same-sex couples except the name “marriage” had a rational basis, the proponents could not show how any of these rational bases were advanced by this law, and that the differentiation was purely a symbolic measure to mark gay couples as inferior.

    This would beg the same question of Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington: Do these states have a rational basis for giving all state-level marriage rights to same-sex couples without the name, and can they show how these laws advance that basis? Under Perry v. Brown, the answer should still be “no,” regardless of how these separate-but-equal institutions were established.

    I think that gay actvists in all of these states should not ignore the very real possibility of getting same-sex marriage in these states from a federal court under the Perry v. Brown standard. Of course, if the governor of one of these states is unfriendly to gay rights, he/she could appeal to the Supreme Court and they may very well be reviewing the merits of this decision anyway.

  4. Derek Washington says

    Thank you LAMBDA Legal and all of the attys who have donated their time and skills to our state! Now, Mayor Goodman, step up to the plate and sign Freedom To Marry!

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