In what's been called "a strategic step" in the effort to advance marriage equality, Lambda Legal has filed a federal suit on behalf of eight Nevada-based same-sex couples.
As MetroWeekly is reporting, the lawsuit, Sevcik vs. Sandoval, marks the first time that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocacy group has sought equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples in federal court. But staff attorney Tara Borelli also notes that a previous case filed by Lambda Legal in state court in New Jersey includes federal claims as well.
According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, the lead plaintiffs in the new lawsuit -- Beverly Sevcik, 73, and Mary Baranovich, 76, of Carson City, Nevada -- have been together for more than 40 years. As the complaint notes, "When Beverly and Mary committed their lives to each other on October 2, 1971 and bought rings to signify their relationship, they were careful not to purchase matching rings for fear of having their relationship discovered."
The couple, nonetheless, went on to raise three children and have four grandchildren, despite the constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2000 and 2002 limiting marriage in the state's constitution to "a male and a female person." Same-sex couples have been able to receive many of the same benefits and privileges of marriage but not the status itself, however, since the legislature passed comprehensive domestic partnership benefits over the veto of then-Gov. Jim Gibbons (R) in 2009.
"This lawsuit seeks the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in the state of Nevada and is tailored to be a responsible building block for future marriage equality work," Borelli is quoted as saying. "One of the reasons that we're suing in the state of Nevada is that this is a particular equal protection problem that this case examines. It's the kind of problem created where a state excludes same-sex couples from marriage deems them fit for all of the rights and responsibilities of marriage through a lesser, second-class status -- in this case, domestic partnership."