Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Another Marriage Equality Law Suit Starts... IN NEVADA??!!

Yes, you read me right. And this time, Lambda Legal is fully on board. In fact, Lambda Legal is filing the suit!

The 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.

As Chris Geidner notes in his (DC) Metro Weekly piece, just three years ago Lambda Legal, along with almost all other national LGBTQ equality organizations, was initially hesitant to join Chad Griffin and his (then) new organization, American Foundation for Equal Rights, in their fight against California's Proposition 8 marriage equality ban in federal court. Since no federal court had ever recognized a Federal Constitutional right to marriage equality before (and many legal eagles doubted any conservative judge would do so now), they saw the move as incredibly risky. But as we've seen in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger case, it turns out that the risk comes with great rewards. Of course, we still have to see what the US Supreme Court does with the Prop 8 case, but at least we're now talking about a Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality as a real possibility!

And as we had discussed in February, Nevada will be ripe for the picking next if the Perry case in California ultimately succeeds. Now, Lambda Legal is interested in actually putting my theory to the test. But hey, if "The Supremes" overturn Prop 8 in California on any kind of 14th Amendment or 1st Amendment grounds, regardless of how narrow they try to tailor it, they nonetheless affirm a groundbreaking precedent that will compel them to do the same to Nevada's Question 2 marriage ban, which is just as discriminatory and violates the principle of equal protection under the law just as much.

Despite what some will claim is just an argument over "words" and "lifestyles", Nevada's marriage ban has caused real damage.

Among the plaintiffs are couples who tried to get married in Nevada, but were denied because of their same-sex status; as well as couples who were married in other states but say they’ve faced discrimination since moving to Nevada.

For instance, the suit says, couple Fletcher Whitwell, 37, and Greg Flamer, 39, live in Las Vegas and last year adopted a baby girl, Hudson Whitwell.

''Fletcher and Greg share the typical responsibilities and joys of parenting a young child: they feed, bathe, and clothe her; they teach her to walk and to recognize different shapes and colors; they play peek-a-boo with her and take her to visit her grandparents; they care for her when she’s sick; they read her bedtime stories and rock her to sleep at night,'' the suit says.

''Fletcher and Greg wish to marry for their daughter’s sake as well as for their own. Fletcher and Greg worry that, as Hudson grows older, she will be deprived of a sense of normalcy and may feel socially outcast because she will absorb the message she receives from her government that her parents are not worthy of marriage. They hope that, one day, Hudson can walk down the aisle at their wedding as their flower girl and that she will understand that the love and commitment her parents feel for one another — and for their family — is as great as that felt by other couples who currently may marry,’’ the suit says.

Sorry, but I just don't see how the present situation, even with SB 283 now in place, can be described as "equal protection under the law". The fact of the matter is that it's not. And that is why, once and for all, we will see Question 2 marriage discrimination taken to court.

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