As We See It

What Nevada’s decision not to defend its gay marriage ban really means


Last week, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Gov. Brian Sandoval announced they would not defend the state’s same-sex marriage ban in front of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

So, what does that mean? The case in question involves eight same-sex couples who sued the state, arguing its voter-approved ban on gay marriage, which passed in 2002, is unconstitutional. With Nevada now out, only the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage is left defending the law.

Tod Story, executive director of the ACLU of Nevada, says the coalition’s case is significantly weakened because the state’s no longer involved. Judicial precedent is also on the side of the couples, as the 9th Circuit struck down California’s Prop 8 in 2012, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman. To his knowledge, Story said, “No court has found in favor of those groups trying to defend the ban.” But that doesn’t mean same-sex marriage will immediately be legal in Nevada. The case must move through the courts, with an appeal to the Supreme Court possible. Meanwhile, the Nevada Legislature has already taken the first step in overturning the same-sex marriage ban by passing SJR13 in 2013. To become law, the amendment, which would ensure marriage equality in Nevada, must pass the Legislature again in 2015 and a ballot vote in 2016.

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