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Judge rules against Nevada same-sex couples who want to marry

LAS VEGAS – A district judge in Nevada has stuck a dagger in the hearts of eight gay and lesbian couples who had sued for the right to marry.

District Judge Robert C. Jones, a conservative jurist appointed by President George H.W. Bush, ruled against the couples in the case known as Sevcik v. Sandoval.

Jones used many of the same arguments made by attorneys representing supporters of Proposition 8 in the trial in California to deny the plaintiffs’ argument that the Nevada law denying them marriage violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Jones ruled just the opposite of District Judge Vaughn Walker, whose groundbreaking decision was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The U.S. Supreme Court will be meeting in closed session on Friday morning to consider the Prop 8 and DOMA cases now before them.

In an ironic twist, any appeal of Judge Jones’ decision will go to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Lambda Legal staff attorney Tara Borelli said the fight would continue.

"This is not the end of this fight. 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," she said.

"This entire decision rests on the ridiculous premise that a 'meaningful percentage of heterosexual persons' will decide not to get married if same-sex couples can. Not only is this not true, but it is settled law that the government is not allowed to cater to private biases – which is all that imagining that 'some couples won't join this club if those people are admitted' amounts to. We are confident this ruling will be overturned on appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals," Borelli said.

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.

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

Lambda Legal attorneys Jon Davidson, Tara Borelli, Peter Renn and Shelbi Day are handling the case, joined by Carla Christofferson, Dawn Sestito,Melanie Cristol and Rahi Azizi of O'Melveny & Myers, and Kelly Dove, Marek Bute and Andrew Jacobs of Snell & Wilmer.

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Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at ken@sdgln.com, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.