[JURIST] Nevada Attorney General [official website] Catherine Cortez Masto announced Monday that her office would no longer be pursuing its legal defense of the state’s same-sex marriage ban, stating that recent decisions in the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] had rendered the state’s arguments untenable. On January 24 Masto’s office stated [press release] its belief that the recent decision in SmithKline Beechum Corp. v. Abbott Laboratories [materials] affected the viability of the state’s equal protection and due process arguments, and that her office would coordinate with the governor’s to decide how to proceed. The decision to abandon the defense was made [Reuters report] with the support of Nevada’s Republican governor and only removes the state as a party defending the ban. After concluding that the ban was no longer defensible in court, the state has filed a motion to redact a brief submitted to the Ninth Circuit in support of the ban. Masto also reportedly based her reversal on the Ninth Circuit’s ruling that potential jurors in these cases cannot be dismissed due to their sexual orientation, further complicating the state’s case. Nevada’s same-sex marriage ban is enacted by an amendment to the state constitution and is being challenged by a group of eight same-sex couples alleging that the state’s marriage ban and domestic partnership laws unfairly discriminate against them and effectively give them “second-class status.”
Controversy over same-sex marriage continues [JURIST backgrounder] to be a prevalent legal issue in the US with some 33 states having bans on same-sex marriage and 17 permitting them. The state of Indiana is poised to become the next state banning gay marriage; the state’s House of Representative on January 29 approved [JURIST report] an amendment to the constitution that would ban same-sex marriage by a 57-40 vote. In a move similar to his Nevada counterpart, the Virginia Attorney General announced [JURIST report] last month that his office would no longer be defending the state’s ban, stating his belief that the law violated the equal protections required by the Fourteenth Amendment. Nevada has also been more aggressive towards same-sex couples than some of its compatriots. In April 2013 the American Civil Liberties Union announced [JURIST report] it would be challenging a Nevada law criminalizing consensual sexual intercourse between teenagers, with violations carrying potential penalties of up to five years in prison. The current Nevada law under which same-sex couples can enter into legal unions was passed [JURIST report] in 2009 after the legislature overrode a veto by the Governor.