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Religious Tolerance logo

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

2014-SEP-08:
Testimony in two more federal cases:
Sevcik v. Sandoval from Nevada and
Jackson v. Abercrombie
from Hawaii.

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This topic is continued from the previous page

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U.S. map shoing Nevada Nevada case: Beverly Sevcik v. Brian Sandoval:

Attorney Monte Neil Stewart also gave testimony on behalf of the State of Nevada. favoring a ban on marriage by same-sex couples in Nevada. He cited the near universal opinion -- shared by social, political, and religious authorities, both conservative and liberal: that it is up to the individual states to define who is eligible to be married. This is seen across the U.S. because there are 51 sets of marriage laws across the country. Some differ from others in terms of the minimum age to be eligible to marry. Some states allow couples younger than the minimum to marry if they have parental consent. Some states allow first cousins to marry even though it doubles the chances of babies being born with genetic defects.

However, authorities differ greatly about making additional restrictions on marriage:

  • Many conservatives believe that voters can ban marriages by same-sex couples by simply passing an amendment to the state Constitution that restricts marriage to a union of one woman and one man.

  • Many liberals believe that whatever amendments to the state Constitution that voters pass must not violate the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs of dozens of recent marriage lawsuits have noted that the due process and/or the equal protection clauses in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution require federal and state governments to treat people and couples equally. They also believe that the U.S. Constitution trumps all state constitutions. More details.

Attorney Stewart argued in favor the Nevada ban, in part, on the basis that states had the right to freely make choices about gay marriage. This includes prohibiting marriage by same-sex couples.

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Dan Levine, writing for Reuters, describes an exchange between layer Neil Stewart and Circuit Judge Marsha Berzon/ It gives a snapshot of how the judges in very liberal Court of Appeals favor marriage equality:

"Monte Neil Stewart, the attorney defending bans in Nevada and Idaho, argued that same-sex marriages would lead to lower marriage rates over time. Marriage restrictions are not motivated by hatred towards gay people, he said, and would not affect laws allowing gay couples to adopt children.

'But in second rate families,' Berzon said.

'We don't really accept that rhetoric,' Stewart said.

'But you do. That's the whole point of your rhetoric, it's to send a message that these are second class families,' Berzon said." 1

Tara Borelli a senior attorney at Lambda Legal represented the plaintiffs. She agreed that Nevada's gay marriage ban sends a message to same-sex couples that they and their families are inferior. She believes that the ban is particularly damaging to children and humiliates them.

Beverly Sevcik, 76, one partner of the lead plaintiff couple said:

"I know it sounds very simple and basic, but one of the things I’m most looking forward to is having matching rings for the first time in 42 years."

Mary Baranovich, 78, Sevcik's partner, said:

“It’s really hard to plan a wedding when you don’t know when it’s going to be, but we’re making a list of people we would like to invite and have our vows written out. We’re all ready to go. We just need a date."

To which she might have added that they needa change in the state Constitution as well.

MSNBC conducted a public opinion poll on their web site. They asked their visitors:

"Will the Supreme Court agree to hear a marriage equality case?"

Two days after the article went online, there were about 3,200 responses. 88% believe that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a same-sex marriage case.

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map of Hawaii Hawaii case: Natasha Jackson v. Neil Abercrombie:

During 2012-AUG, a federal District Court in Hawaii ruled that same-sex couples have no right to marry in the state. Hawaiian same-sex marriage supporters have appealed this case to the 9th circuit. This may seem strange, because the Hawaii Legislature altered the marriage statutes to establish marriage equality. Thus, same-sex couples have been able to marry routinely in the state since late 2003. However, the plaintiffs want the Court of Appeals to over-rule the District Court ruling so that it cannot be cited in future cases.

Lawyer Clyde Wadsworth, representing the same-sex couples, said that the original parties to the lawsuit no longer have any disputes with the marriage law as it now exists.

Kenneth Connelly, of the Hawaii Family Forum -- a conservative Christian group that is opposed to marriage equality -- said the issues in the case could still resurface in the future if the Hawaii Supreme Court were to strike down the state's same-sex marriage statutes. 2 Opponents of marriage by same-sex couples have asked the 9th Circuit to delay a ruling on this case until another lawsuit challenging Hawaii's new marriage statutes is decided in state court. 1

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LGBT symbol Implications of this hearing:

The deadline established by the U.S. Supreme Court to consider cases for its 2015 session was 2014-SEP-23.

  • If the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals act as they have in the past and take a few months to issue their ruling, then the opponents of marriage equality could appeal their three cases to the Supreme Court, but their cases could not be accepted by the high court until late in 2015. By that time, one or more other cases that have been recently already appealed to the Supreme Court are likely to have been accepted. The high court will probably rule on those cases in mid 2015 and will probably issue a broad ruling that will either make marriage available to same-sex couples everwhere in the U.S. or will terminate marriage for these couples everywhere. Thus, the ruling by this court of appeals would probably have no effect on marriage equality in Idaho, Nevada, Hawaii, and the rest of the country.

  • If the Court of Appeals were to issue its ruling within a few days, then it might give the opponents of same-sex marriage in Idaho, Nevada, and Hawaii sufficient time to compose an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. In that case, the high court might decide to grant certiorari to one or more of these three cases, and consider their appeal.

As it happens, the 9th Circuit Court missed the deadline.

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More developments are inevitable.

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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. Dam Levine, et al., "Court sharply questions gay marriage bans from three U.S. States," Reuters, 2014-SEP-08, at: http://www.reuters.com/
  2. Paul Elias, "Court Hears Arguments Over Gay Marriage's Impact," ABC News, 2014-SEP-08, at: http://abcnews.go.com/
  3. "History of in vitro fertilisation," Wikipedia, as on 2014-JUL-09, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance 
Originally written: 2014-SEP-11
Latest update: 2014-SEP-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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