Las Vegas Sun

September 27, 2021

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Couples sue to overturn Nevada gay marriage ban

Eight couples filed suit Tuesday to overturn Nevada’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The couples, represented by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc. in Los Angeles, which advocates for gay rights, filed suit in U.S. District Court for Nevada.

''Plaintiffs are eight loving, committed same-sex couples. They bring this action for the violation of their rights under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution caused by their being denied the right to marry in the state of Nevada. The state has instead relegated these couples to the inferior and novel status of registered domestic partnerships, and has disrespected the marriages some of them have entered in other jurisdictions, because they are lesbians and gay men in same-sex relationships,’’ the suit charges.

Lambda attorneys in the suit highlighted what they suggested was a contradiction in which the state’s Constitution limits marriage to couples composed of a male and a female, while at the same time the Legislature in 2009 created Nevada’s Domestic Partnership law.

That statute shows Nevada has a ''public policy recognizing that same-sex couples merit the same family, parenting and relationship rights and responsibilities as different-sex spouses,'' the lawsuit says.

The gay marriage ban in the state Constitution ''serves no purpose other than to impose a stigmatizing government label of inferiority upon lesbians and gay men and their relationships and denies plaintiffs equal treatment based on their sexual orientation and sex,'' the suit says.

Attorneys for the state have not yet responded to Tuesday’s lawsuit.

The plaintiffs are couples in Carson City, Las Vegas and Reno.

The defendants are Gov. Brian Sandoval and marriage officials Clark County Clerk Diana Alba, Washoe County Clerk Amy Harvey and Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Grover.

It’s unknown when the federal court will schedule hearings and act on the lawsuit, in which the couples seek a declaration that the provision in the Nevada Constitution spelling out who can get married violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The suit also challenges ''any other sources of state law that exclude same-sex couples from marrying and relegating them to only registered domestic partnership.''

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.

Tuesday’s lawsuit comes after a federal appeals court in February struck down California’s voter-approved ban on gay marriages — a ruling potentially setting up a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the issue.

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