A judge for the US District Court for the District of Nevada [official website] on Monday denied a challenge [order] brought by eight same-sex couples who contended that the state's law restricting marriage to heterosexual couples violates the US Constitution's Equal Protection Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder]. In their lawsuit, Sevcik v. Sandoval [Lambda Legal backgrounder], the couples argued that Nevada's marriage law unlawfully places same-sex couples in an inferior status compared with their heterosexual counterparts. The court rejected this argument, however, saying that because Nevada's interest in restricting marriage to one man and one woman is legitimate and the state's marriage law is not based on animus toward same-sex couples, the marriage law is constitutional:
Because the maintenance of the traditional institution of civil marriage as between one man and one woman is a legitimate state interest, because the exclusion of same-sex couples from the institution of civil marriage is rationally related to furthering that interest, and because the challenged laws neither withdraw any existing rights nor effect a broad change in the legal status or protections of homosexuals based upon pure animus, the State is entitled to summary judgment.The eight same-sex couples plan to appeal the ruling to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website].
Same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] has been a controversial issue recently both in the US and around the globe. In November voters in Maryland, Maine and Washington legalized same-sex marriage [JURIST reports]. In the same election Minnesota voters struck down a ballot initiative that would have outlawed same-sex marriage in the state. Also in November JURIST guest columnist Douglas NeJaime opined [JURIST op-ed] that recent voter approval of state referenda legalizing same-sex marriage makes it difficult for opponents to use democratic principles to argue against judicial action on the issue. Earlier that month Nigeria's House of Representatives passed a bill that criminalizes same-sex marriage [JURIST report]. Earlier that week Malawi's government changed its position [JURIST report] on a decision to suspend its laws barring same-sex marriage and homosexuality after being pressured by a number of churches.