Columbia Law School Clinic Urges the End of Marriage Discrimination in Nevada, Hawaii

Amicus Brief Filed in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Argues Exclusion of Lesbian and Gay Couples From Marriage Violates U.S. Constitution's Equality and Due Process Guarantees

New York, October 25, 2013—The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals should find that bans on marriage for lesbian and gay couples in Nevada and Hawaii violate the Constitution’s guarantees of liberty and equal protection under the law, the Columbia Law School Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic argues in an amicus brief filed with the court today.   

The Clinic’s brief supports the claims of Beverly Sevcik and Mary Baranovich and seven other same-sex couples from Nevada, and Natasha Jackson and Janin Kleid of Hawaii, who challenge their exclusion from marriage in their respective states. Sevcik and Baranovich are grandparents and have been together since they exchanged rings more than forty years ago.
“This nation's promise is equality for all, not equality for some,” said Columbia Law School Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg, who directs the Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic, and is the brief’s primary author. “This promise applies with special importance to the right to marry, which has long been understood as a key part of our individual liberty.”
The Clinic’s brief demonstrates that the history of the 14th Amendment and a string of U.S. Supreme Court cases—including the historic June decision in U.S. v. Windsor striking down the main provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act—make clear that all people have equal access to rights that have been deemed fundamental.
The right to marry is “defined by the content of the protected conduct, not by who exercises [this] right,” the brief argues. “Far from advancing the institutions of marriage and family, the state law that grants the right to marry to some but not others demeans the right’s fundamental character and robs that right of its core meaning.”
Columbia Law School students and Clinic participants Sara Nies ’14 and Rosie Wang ’14 assisted in writing the brief, together with co-counsel Rita Lin and Laura Weissbein of Morrison & Foerster. The cases are Sevcik v. Sandoval and Jackson v. Abercrombie.
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Columbia Law School’s Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic addresses cutting edge issues in sexuality and gender law through litigation, legislation, public policy analysis and other forms of advocacy.