Nevada Side-steps Voters Over Gay Marriage

Nevada is dropping its defense of a state ban on gay marriage. This despite Nevada’s voters approving a state constitutional amendment by wide margins in back-to-back elections in 2000 and 2002 barring same-sex marriage, establishing that “only a marriage between a male and a female person shall be recognized and given effect.”

The move, made by the state’s Democratic attorney general with the support of its Republican governor, does not legalize gay marriage in Nevada but removes the state as an opponent of those fighting to overturn the ban in federal court.

A group of eight same-sex couples sued to challenge the ban as unconstitutional, saying the state’s domestic-partnership statute relegates them to second-class status. They lost at the district court level, but appealed to the 9th Circuit.

State Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto says after careful review, the state has filed a motion to withdraw a brief filed last month in support of the ban in a case pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. That ruling was issued the same day Masto filed her earlier brief in defense of Nevada’s same-sex marriage ban, on January 21st.

In supporting Masto’s move, Governor Brian Sandoval, who is seeking re-election this year, says the state’s ban would not hold up to legal scrutiny.

Seventeen states as well as the District of Columbia now recognizing same-sex marriage. Federal court rulings could add Utah and Oklahoma to that group if legal decisions overturning gay marriage bans in those states are upheld.

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