Nevada officials won't defend gay marriage ban
Sandra Chereb (The Philippine Star) - February 11, 2014 - 10:41am

CARSON CITY, Nevada — Nevada filed notice Monday that it's withdrawing its support of the state's gay marriage ban, an abrupt reversal after the state's top lawyer in January argued in support of the ban approved by voters in 2002.

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, in a motion filed with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, said the state's arguments are no longer viable after the court recently ruled that potential jurors cannot be removed during jury selection solely because of sexual orientation.

"After thoughtful review and analysis, the state has determined that its arguments grounded upon equal protection and due process are no longer sustainable," Masto said in a statement.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican seeking re-election this year, said in an email to The Associated Press that he agreed.

Nevada's move comes as the federal government and courts around the U.S. in recent months have chipped away at laws that prohibit marriage and benefits for same-sex couples. In a one-month span from December to January, two federal judges struck down state bans on gay marriage, concluding that they violate the U.S. Constitution's promise of equal protection under the law.

Eight same-sex couples had sued Nevada, arguing the law is unconstitutional. A federal judge upheld the law in 2012, sending it to the appeals court.

The state had argued that Nevada law defining marriage as between a man and a woman is a legitimate state interest, "motivated by the state's desire to protect and perpetuate traditional marriage."

Federal courts recently struck down similar bans, most recently in Utah and Oklahoma. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is reviewing the cases out of Utah and Oklahoma, with hearings scheduled in mid-April.

Currently, 17 states allow gay marriage.

Nevada lawmakers last year took the first step toward repealing the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage. If legislators approve Senate Joint Resolution 13 again next year, it would go to voters on the 2016 ballot.

ASSOCIATED PRESS ATTORNEY GENERAL CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO BRIAN SANDOVAL CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS COURT MARRIAGE MASTO NEVADA SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION STATE UTAH AND OKLAHOMA
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