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]