RENO, NV - Exactly one week from September first, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments for and against Nevada's Protection of Marriage Act. The gay marriage ban has been part of the state's constitution since 2002, when Nevadans voted in favor of the ban not once, but twice. 8 gay couples in Nevada have filed suit against the state. One of those couples says they did it to be the change they wanted to see.
Professional musician Karen Vibe says she met Karen Goody at a Gay Pride event here in Reno about 8 years ago.
It didn't take her long to propose to Goody, and they started living together in January 2006.
While they can't legally marry in Nevada, they have nevertheless designated their backyard for the big event. “This is our new backyard where we hope to be married. This design where he hope to actually have the ceremony. In the center is where we will be standing,” says Vibe. They believe that day is close at hand. That's because their case against Nevada is in front of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
They, along with seven other couples throughout the state, say Nevada's constitutional amendment, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, violates their rights under the 14th Amendment. Question 2, as it was known back then, was passed by voters twice in 2000 and 2002. There were plenty of billboards and political ads urging people to vote yes.
Proponents of the measure described it this way. “It's really some pro-marriage and family legislation. Its not anti-anything,” Ken Lynn, a proponent of Question 2, told us back in 2002.
In 2012 a federal judge in Reno upheld the state amendment, saying Nevada "could have validly reasoned that the consequences of altering the traditional definition of civil marriage could be severe."
Earlier this year, the 9th Circuit ruled in a completely separate case that sexual orientation is a protected class.
That ruling has convinced Nevada's attorney general and governor to withdraw from the marriage case, believing they won't win. “Well, based on that new standard, we don't have an argument; the state loses,” says Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto.
Taking up the torch: the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage. An Idaho attorney for the group will make his case in front of the 9th circuit in one week on behalf of the coalition.
For the Karens, what's most important is that Nevadans look at them less as plaintiffs and more as people. “We lead very typical lives for a couple, gay or straight,” says Goody.
Late last week the 9th Circuit said it would ask the parties, during proceedings, whether the coalition has standing in this case as Nevada is no longer defending its amendment. The request has many legal experts believing the case will end there. Even if the coalition can establish standing, the 9th Circuit has already ruled in a similar case that anti-same-sex marriage laws are unconstitutional.