LAS VEGAS – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit today granted Lambda Legal's request to expedite the hearing of Sevcik v. Sandoval, its lawsuit challenging Nevada's discriminatory marriage ban.
The decision comes just two days after Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval sought leave to withdraw his brief defending the ban. The Ninth Circuit also granted Gov. Sandoval's request to withdraw his brief.
"The fact that the government defendants no longer are defending Nevada's exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage makes any delay in these loving and committed couples securing the relief they seek particularly intolerable. The wheels of justice are now on a much faster track," said Tara Borelli, Lambda Legal senior attorney.
Gov. Sandoval's request and the earlier decision by Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover to withdraw his brief were motivated by the Ninth Circuit's recent ruling in SmithKline Beecham v. Abbott Laboratories that discriminatory classifications based upon sexual orientation must receive heightened scrutiny and should be presumed unconstitutional.
The heightened scrutiny standard is much tougher to meet and rendered the state of Nevada's arguments in its original brief defending the marriage ban "no longer tenable in the Ninth Circuit," as Nevada's Attorney General conceded in a statement released last week.
The withdrawal of the two government defendants leaves only the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage, which the U.S. District Court had allowed to intervene, defending the marriage ban.
In Sevcik v. Sandoval, Lambda Legal, joined by pro bono co-counsel from O'Melveny & Myers and Snell & Wilmer, represents eight gay and lesbian couples challenging Nevada's law banning marriage for same-sex couples. The lawsuit argues that barring same-gender couples from marriage violates the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
A U.S. District Court judge granted Gov. Sandoval's motion to dismiss the lawsuit in November 2012, and Lambda Legal appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit. The State submitted its brief supporting the marriage ban to the Ninth Circuit on the same day as the Court's ruling in SmithKline.
The lead plaintiffs in Sevcik v. Sandoval are Beverly Sevcik and Mary Baranovich of Carson City, who have been together more than 40 years, raised three children together, and are now the proud grandmothers of four grandchildren.
The other plaintiffs are: Antioco Carrillo and Theo Small of Las Vegas, who have been together since 2006; Fletcher Whitwell and Greg Flamer of Las Vegas, who have been together for more than15 years and adopted a baby girl together; Karen Goody and Karen Vibe of Reno, who have been engaged since 2005; Mikyla and Katie Miller of Reno, who are raising two children; Adele Terranova and Tara Newberry of Las Vegas, who are raising two children; Caren and Farrell Cafferata-Jenkins of Carson City, who have been together for more than 16 years and are raising two sons; and Megan Lanz and Sara Geiger of Las Vegas, who have been together since 2005 and have a daughter.
The case is Sevcik v. Sandoval. Read the Ninth Circuit order HERE.
Lambda Legal attorneys Jon Davidson, Tara Borelli and Peter Renn are handling the case, joined by Carla Christofferson, Dawn Sestito, Dimitri Portnoi, Melanie Cristol and Rahi Azizi of O'Melveny & Myers, and Kelly Dove and Marek Bute of Snell & Wilmer.