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Federal Judge: Nevada Allowed to Ban Gay Marriage
Marriage can now be limited to opposite-sex couples in Nevada, according to a ruling from a federal trial court. In a report from BuzzFeed, Judge Robert C. Jones, an appointee of George W. Bush, ruled that the guarantee of equal protection of the laws from the United States Constitution does not “[prohibit] the People of the State of Nevada from maintaining statutes that reserve the institution of civil marriage to one-man–one-woman relationships.”
In his ruling, Jones said that a decision from the Supreme Court in the 1972 case of Baker v. Nelson helped him make his decision. The decision in that case denied a same-sex couple’s marriage claim because it lacked ‘substantial federal question.’ Jones also said in the ruling that the “exclusion of same-sex couples from the institution of civil marriage” was constitutional “[b]ecause the maintenance of the traditional institution of civil marriage as between one man and one woman is a legitimate state interest.”
The ruling went on to say the following: “Homosexuals have not historically been denied the right to vote, the right to serve on juries, or the right to own property. It simply cannot be seriously maintained, in light of these and other recent democratic victories, that homosexuals do not have the ability to protect themselves from discrimination through democratic processes such that extraordinary protection from majoritarian processes is appropriate.”
Jones also came to the conclusion that ‘rational basis’ has to be applied to the prohibition on allowing same-sex couples to marry in Nevada. This then led to him reaching the reasons for upholding differential treatment.
“The protection of the traditional institution of marriage, which is a conceivable basis for the distinction drawn in this case, is a legitimate state interest,” Jones said. He also added that if Nevada was to recognize marriages of same-sex couples, “it is conceivable that a meaningful percentage of heterosexual persons would cease to value the civil institution as highly as they previously had and hence enter into it less frequently … because they no longer wish to be associated with the civil institution as redefined.”
The decision from Jones started with the following:
“Homosexual persons may marry in Nevada, but like heterosexual persons, they may not marry members of the same sex. That is, a homosexual man may marry anyone a heterosexual man may marry, and a homosexual woman may marry anyone a heterosexual woman may marry,” he wrote. “Although the State appears to have drawn no distinction at all at first glance, and although the distinction drawn by the State could be characterized as gender-based … the Court finds that for the purposes of an equal protection challenge, the distinction is definitely sexual-orientation based.”
Lambda Legal filed the case with the court and the lead lawyer working the case was Tara Borelli. She wrote the following in a statement: “We will appeal and continue to fight for these loving couples, who are harmed by Nevada’s law barring marriage for same-sex couples. By forbidding same-sex couples’ access to marriage, the State brands them and their children as second-class citizens.”