A.G. Schneiderman Urges Federal Appeals Court To Strike Down Bans On Same-Sex Marriage

Multi-State Amicus Brief Argues That Marriage Bans In Hawaii And Nevada Violate 14th Amendment

Schneiderman: Court Must Ensure Discriminatory Laws In Nevada And Hawaii Will Not Continue To Undermine National Progress

NEW YORK – Arguing that Nevada’s and Hawaii’s laws prohibiting same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, Attorney General Schneiderman today joined a coalition of states in filing a brief before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The brief argues that the laws violate the 14th Amendment and should be struck down.

“After the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic step this past June to secure equal rights and protections for same-sex couples, the U.S. Court of Appeals must ensure these discriminatory laws in Nevada and Hawaii will not continue to undermine our national progress,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “The State of New York has long recognized out-of-state same-sex marriages, and the enactment of the Marriage Equality Act further cemented our position on this critical civil rights issue. My office will continue to work every day to defend the fundamental principle of equal justice under law for all.”

State laws in Hawaii and Nevada provide many rights and protections for same-sex couples but deny them the status of marriage. The brief argues that by withholding the title of marriage, restrictive marriage laws consign gay and lesbian individuals and their families to second-class status and unfairly withhold the social benefits and cultural significance associated with marriage.

The brief also highlights the experience of many states that have ended the exclusion of same-sex couples from civil marriage. Relying on data regarding marriage rates, divorce rates, and percentages of out-of-wedlock births, the brief refutes speculation offered by the proponents of restrictive marriage laws as to the supposed negative effects of allowing same-sex couples to marry. The brief argues that the measure actually harms families by denying the legal and social benefits of marriage to same-sex couples and their children. 

The brief further argues, “The states favor – and therefore encourage – marriage over transient relationships because marriage promotes stable family bonds, fosters economic interdependence and security for members of the marital household, and enhances the physical and emotional well-being of both the partners to the marriage and any children they may raise….  All of these interests are furthered by ending the exclusion of same-sex couples from the institution.”

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley led the filing of the amicus brief joined by 13 other states, including California, Connecticut, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia.

The brief was filed in connection with two related cases challenging Nevada’s and Hawaii’s bans on same-sex marriage: Beverly Sevcik, et al. v. Brian Sandoval et al., on appeal from the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, and Natasha N. Jackson, et al. v. Neil S. Abercrombie, et al., on appeal from the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii.

A copy of today’s brief can be viewed here.

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