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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage lawsuits: Hearing
before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

2014-SEP-08: Hearing held by the 9th Circuit:
Latta v. Otter from Idaho;
Sevcik v. Sandoval from Nevada.
Jackson v. Abercrombie
from Hawaii.

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LGBT symbol Description of the hearing schedule:

The hearings were held in a single session on the afternoon of Monday, 2014-SEP-08. The Court's oral notice described the cases as follows:

  • Susan Latta v. C. Otter - Governor Otter and the State of Idaho appeal from the district court's decision declaring Idaho's marriage laws, which recognize as valid only a marriage between a man and a woman, unconstitutional and permanently enjoinging [sic] their enforcment [sic].

    Each side was allotted 30 minutes.

  • Beverly Sevcik v. Brian Sandoval - Plaintiffs appeal from the summary judgment in their action challenging refusal of the State of Nevada to permit same-sex couples to enter into civil marriages, as well as the state's refusal to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

    Each side was allotted 15 minutes.

  • Natasha Jackson v. Neil Abercrombie - Natasha Jackson, Janin Kleid, Gary Bradley and Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie appeal from the district court's summary judgment in an action challenging Hawaii's former statutory ban on same-sex marriage.

    Each side was allotted 10 minutes. 1
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Predictions of the outcome of the hearings:

Since mid-2013, there have been many dozens of lawsuits in county courts, federal district courts, and federal appeals courts involving bans on marriages by same-sex couples. The outcomes of these particular three cases at the 9th Circuit are perhaps the most predictable decisions of all, for six reasons:

  • The 9th Circuit Court is generally acknowledged as -- and often criticized for being -- the most liberal of the 11 Circuit Courts.

  • The three Circuit Court Judges who heard arguments in these three cases have all ruled in favor of equal rights for the LGBT community in the past.

  • Of the three randomly selected judges for this session, Stephen Reinhardt was appointed to the court by President Carter (D). Marsha S. Berzon and Ronald M. Gould were appointed by President Clinton (D).

  • Judge Reinhardt wrote the majority ruling for the 9th Circuit in Hollingsworth v. Perry. This was the case that involved Proposition 8 -- the 2008 citizen initiative that banned marriages by same-sex couples in California. He wrote:

    "Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples." 2

  • A lawsuit SmithKline Beecham Corp v. Abbott Laboratories was reviewed by the 9th Circuit in 2014-JAN. Judges Brezon and Reinhardt agreed that jurors cannot be excluded because of their sexual orientation. In their ruling, they stated that cases of discrimination on the basis of a person's sexual orientation should receive "heightened scrutiny" by the courts, This treats homophobia on a par with racism and sexism, and makes cases fighting discrimination against lesbians, gays and bisexuals much easier to prosecute. This decision by the court caused the Governor and Attorney General of Nevada to no longer defend their state's ban on marriage by same-sex couples.

  • Judge Gould wrote a ruling in 2008 that reinstated a military nurse who had been fired as a result of the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

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The cass involved in the hearings:

  • Idaho: Susan Latta v. C. Otter: This is a common type of appeal concerning marriage equality in which:
    • The state prohibits marriages by same-sex couples;
    • The plaintiffs have been denied the freedom to marry;
    • A District Court has declared the state's marriage bans to be unconstitutional.
    • That ruling was stayed pending this appeal to the 9th Circuit.

  • Nevada: Beverly Sevcik v. Brian Sandoval: This lawsuit is similar to Idaho's:
    • It was filed by Lambda Legal -- a pro-marriage equality group -- in 2012-APR.\
    • Plaintiffs are eight same-sex couples who are all residents of Nevada.
    • A District Court allowed the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage to intervene as a defendant. This is the conservative group that sponsored the amendment to the state Constitution that restricts marriage to the union of one woman and one man.
    • The District Court ruled that the state constitutional ban on marriages by same-sex couples is constitutional.
    • The plaintiffs appealed their case.
    • State officials had decided to not defend the ban in the 9th Circuit Court. Their role has been taken over by the Coalition. During 2014-FEB, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto asked the Court to withdraw her anti-marriage equality brief from this case. She explained"

      "After thorough analysis and review, the arguments grounded upon equal protection and due process are no longer sustainable."

    • The 9th Circuit Court has ordered the parties involved to argue whether the Coalition has standing to defend the Amendment. According to the precedent established by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Proposition 8 case -- Hollingsworth v. Perry -- in 2013-JUN, the Coalition might not have standing to be the defendant.

  • Hawaii: Natasha Jackson v. Neil Abercrombie: This is an unusual case:
    • A District Court ruling in 2012 upheld the state statutes that prohibited same-sex couples from marrying.
    • Subsequently, the Hawaii Legislature repealed the ban and made marriage available to such couples.
    • The plaintiff's motive is to have the District Court's ruling overturned by the 9th Circuit so that it cannot be cited in other lawsuits.

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A 2 hour, 33 minute video of the hearing:

The session was video streamed live from the 9th Circuit's web site. It is available on You Tube. 3

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Calendar for San Francisco, California: Oral Argument Notice," United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, for 2014-SEP-08, at: http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/
  2. Dylan Matthews, "The Supreme Court ended Proposition 8. Here’s what that means," Washington Post, 2013-JUN-26, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  3. "1:00 PM Monday September 8th, 2014 San Francisco Courtroom One," You Tube, 2014-SEP-08, at: http://youtu.be/
  4. Maura Dolan, "9th Circuit to take up same-sex marriage bans in Idaho, Nevada, Hawaii," Los Angeles Times, 2014-SEP-08, at: http://www.latimes.com/

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance 
Originally written: 2014-SEP-09
Latest update: 2014-SEP-10
Author: B.A. Robinson

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