National gay rights advocacy group Lambda Legal [advocacy website] on Tuesday filed suit [complaint, PDF] on behalf of eight same-sex couples against the state of Nevada claiming that the state's ban on same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] violates their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment [text] of the US Constitution. Many of the couples, including two women that have been together for 41 years, have recently tried to obtain marriage licenses [AP report] but were denied them by the state. The complaint, filed in the US District Court for the District of Nevada [official website], seeks both preliminary and permanent enjoinment of Nevada Revised Statute § 122.020 and Nevada Constitution Article 1, § 21 [text]. The complaint states:
The State's marriage ban discriminates against each Plaintiff on the basis of sex both facially and as applied, barring each Plaintiff from marriage and relegating him or her to registered domestic partnership solely because he or she wishes to marry a life partner of the same sex.The complaint also argues that Nevada's ban on same-sex marriage serves no legitimate state interest, as evidenced by the state's legalization of domestic partnerships. The complaint includes Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval as a defendant and three county clerks in their official capacities.
While Nevada is among the states that ban same-sex marriage, several states have recently passed legislation recognizing the marriages. In March, Maryland became the eighth state to allow same-sex marriage [JURIST report] when Governor Martin O'Malley signed the Civil Marriage Protection Act [SB241, PDF]. In February, Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signed legislation [JURIST report] legalizing same-sex marriage. New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia [JURIST reports] have also approved same-sex marriage. New Jersey has been struggling to pass a same-sex marriage bill, but had a setback in February when Governor Chris Christie conditionally vetoed the bill [JURIST report] and called for a voter referendum to decide the issue, rather than the state legislature.