Monday, December 03, 2012

Federal Court Upholds Nevada's Ban On Same-Sex Marriage

In Sevcik v. Sandoval, (D NV, Nov. 26, 2012), a Nevada federal district court upheld against an Equal Protection Clause challenge the constitutionality of Nevada's ban on same-sex marriages. Nevada does recognize same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partnerships, with the parties having most, but not all, of the same rights and responsibilities as do spouses in a marriage. The court concluded that it need apply only rational basis scrutiny to Nevada's state constitutional provisions limiting marriage to heterosexual couples:
Here, there is no indication of any intent to maintain any notion of male or female superiority, but rather, at most, of heterosexual superiority or “heteronormativity” by relegating (mainly) homosexual legal unions to a lesser status....
The States are currently in the midst of an intense democratic debate about the novel concept of same-sex marriage, and homosexuals have meaningful political power to protect their interests. At the state level, homosexuals recently prevailed during the 2012 general elections on same-sex marriage ballot measures in the States of Maine, Maryland, and Washington, and they prevailed against a fourth ballot measure that would have prohibited same sex marriage under the Minnesota Constitution. It simply cannot be seriously maintained, in light of these and other recent democratic victories, that homosexuals do not have the ability to protect themselves from discrimination through democratic processes such that extraordinary protection from majoritarian processes is appropriate.
Applying rational basis scrutiny, the court concluded that "the protection of the traditional institution of marriage, which is a conceivable basis for the distinction drawn in this case, is a legitimate state interest."   The court also held that protection of Nevada's public policy is a valid reason for it to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.  AP reporting on the decision says that plaintiffs plan an appeal.

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