RENO, NV - Will Nevada be the next state to allow same-sex marriages? Or is it more complicated than that? The state's decision to not support the same-sex marriage ban does not mean gay marriage is legal in Nevada; that will still require a court decision or a vote of the people.
Nevada voters banned same sex-marriage in 2002. Immediately after, there was a court battle with same-sex couples suing for the right to marry. Fast-forward 12 years and a separate Ninth Circuit Court decision about gay jurors put Nevada's law into legal limbo.
"Sexual orientation is now a protected class. Well, based on that new standard, we don't have an argument; the state loses," said Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto.
The recent decision in Smith Klein V. Abbot said the government can't discriminate based on sexual orientation. In the court system it places gays in a protected class.
"So this has not been determined, whether the law is constitutional or unconstitutional, that's for a court to decide," said Cortez-Masto.
But what has been determined is the Attorney General and Governor don't think they'll win in court. Case precedent says they won't, hence pulling out of the case.
"I have always believed that marriage is between a man and a woman, but i respect the will of the people and I also respect the decisions on the books," said Governor Brian Sandoval.
This does not mean that we will see same-sex marriages anytime soon. The ban is still in effect until a court decides otherwise.
"I find it very interesting that we can have two people make a decision that 70 percent of the people in the state had already made," said Lynn Chapman, Vice President of The Nevada Eagle Forum, a family values group. Chapman believes Sandoval is giving up too easily and should continue to defend the ban.
"I think he should be representing the people of Nevada and thinking about the people that actually live here and not worrying about the federal government and what they may do," said Chapman.
Ultimately, the Governor and Attorney General didn't make the decision based on opinion. They feel they had no choice in the matter and just had to follow the rules that are on the books.
"The Ninth Circuit has spoken in this Smith Glasko Klein case. Hence the change in the state's position in this case," said Governor Sandoval.
If the Ninth Circuit Court rules in favor of the Nevada couples, it will make same-sex marriage legal not only in Nevada but also Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Alaska; those states all lie within the Ninth Circuit Court's district.
It's also possible this case can be appealed to the United States Supreme Court where it could change the law nationwide.
Meanwhile, the Nevada Legislature is in the process of legalizing gay marriage.