Federal court to hear challenge to Nevada gay marriage ban

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Beverly Sevcik, 74, and Mary Baranovich, 76

A federal court for Nevada will hear a lawsuit filed by eight same-sex couples demanding the freedom to marry in the state. The couples, represented by Lambda Legal, are challenging Nevada’s law banning gay marriage.

The case is before the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, where on Aug. 10 a judge agreed to hear a motion for summary judgment, as well as a motion from Gov. Brian Sandoval and Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover to dismiss the case.

The hearing will take place in November before U.S. District Chief Judge Robert Jones in Las Vegas.

“This is an important first step in bringing the freedom to marry to Nevada,” said Lambda Legal staff attorney Tara Borelli in a press statement. “These loving couples, burdened by the stigma of Nevada’s marriage ban, will have the chance to demonstrate in court that their relationships and their families are worthy of equal dignity and respect.”

The judge also granted a motion by the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage to intervene as a defendant in the lawsuit. The group campaigned for the ballot initiative banning gay and lesbian couples from marrying.

In the lawsuit, Lambda Legal, joined by pro bono co-counsel from O’Melveny & Myers LLP and Snell & Wilmer LLP, argues that Nevada’s law barring same-sex couples from marriage violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“Nevada’s prohibition on marriage for same-sex couples serves no legitimate state interest, a fact the state even acknowledged by creating a parallel, but less respected, legal status of registered domestic partners,” Borelli said. “By not allowing them to marry, the State brands these loving couples and their children as second-class citizens.”

The lead plaintiffs in the case are Beverly Sevcik, 74, and Mary Baranovich, 76, of Carson City, who have been together for nearly 41 years, raising three children and now the proud grandmothers of four grandchildren.

The other plaintiffs are:

• Antioco Carrillo and Theo Small of Las Vegas, who have been together since 2006;

• Fletcher Whitwell and Greg Flamer of Las Vegas, who have been together for 14 years and adopted a baby girl last year;

• Karen Goody and Karen Vibe of Reno, who have been engaged since 2005;

• Mikyla and Katie Miller of Reno, parents of a newborn baby girl;

• Adele Terranova and Tara Newberry of Las Vegas, who are raising two children;

• Caren and Farrell Cafferata-Jenkins of Carson City, who have been together for 15 years and are raising two sons;

• Megan Lanz and Sara Geiger of Las Vegas, who have been together since 2005 and have a daughter.

The case is on the docket as Sevcik v. Sandoval.