Nevada couples celebrate ruling in 9th circuit

Today, October 7, a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled in favor of the freedom to marry in two legal cases, including one from Nevada. This exciting ruling comes just over a month after the 9th Circuit heard oral arguments in Lambda Legal's marriage case, Sevcik v. Sandoval, as well as two other cases involving marriage for same-sex couples from Idaho and Hawaii on September 8.

Earlier this year, the Nevada Attorney General and Governor dropped their defense of Nevada’s marriage ban, explaining that it is indefensible under the “heightened scrutiny” precedent set by a separate 9th Circuit ruling involving sexual orientation. The state has agreed to take no further action on the Nevada case meaning that today, October 8, same-sex couples will finally be free to marry in many Nevada counties, with the rest to follow in short order. 

This week, same-sex couples from Nevada are rejoicing. Over the last year, Freedom to Marry and Freedom Nevada caught up with some of the couples who were fighting to end the exclusion of committed couples like them from marriage in their home state. Their stories explain just how devoted and loving the families involved in this case were, underscoring the importance and urgency for all marriage to be respected nation wide.

Yevonne Allen & Meredith Tanzer • Reno

On April 29, 2013, YeVonne Allen decided to propose to the love of her life, Meredith Tanzer in a place that was pivotal in the making of their relationship — the coffee shop where they shared more than 26 dates. “Our proposal was incredible,” YeVonne said. “I asked friends of ours who were singers to help me serenade Meredith by singing ‘Marry Me,’ by Train.”

Meredith was elated. “I was already so happy in my life with YeVonne and our pets; I couldn’t possibly fathom how it could get any better,” Meredith said. “When YeVonne asked me to marry her, there was no greater feeling in the world. Having the person you love asking you to be with them forever is the biggest commitment you can make to another person, and I am so happy we are making that promise to one another.”

Yevonne and Meredith applaud today's ruling from the 9th Circuit, and hope that they will soon be able to marry in the state in which they met and fell in love. “I have lived in Nevada all of my life and want the option to get married on Nevada soil. My family lives here, our memories are here– Nevada is home to us,” YeVonne said. “Getting married anywhere else wouldn’t feel right.”

“Marriage matters to us because it levels the playing field. We want to care for our partners, ensure their financial security, and be recognized for the same level of commitment that others have enjoyed for years,” Meredith said. “It is the American dream: you fall in love, propose, get married, and spend the rest of your lives together. To deny us this is wrong and is hurting families like ours.”

Patricia & Salwa • Las Vegas

Seven months after first meeting, Salwa and Patricia took their kids, Dalia and Khali, to embark upon the family’s biggest adventure to date: a 23-day roadtrip. It was then that the couple decided the time was right to take the next serious step in their relationship. “We got engaged in Sedona! We were already so in love. It happened faster than we were willing to admit!” Patricia said. “As we walked along the Red Rock Crossing, we picked a wedding date.”

There wedding was absolutely beautiful. “Fifty of our closest friends and family gathered to witness us exchange our vows,” Patricia explained. “It was a truly special day for our entire family, and we are so blessed that everyone could attend to give us well wishes.”

The couple was especially thrilled that Salwa’s dad, a devout Muslim, was at the ceremony to offer his heartfelt blessings in a beautiful and eloquent speech. “Having my dad be there to support me and our family was a beautiful and touching moment for me,” Salwa said. “I am so proud to have such a supportive and welcoming family.”

Patricia and Salwa are excited to finally have their marriage legally respected in their home state. “We want our children to be able to say their parents are married. We want to be able to protect them,” Patricia said. “But most of all, we want our families love to continue to flourish, for our kids continue to thrive, and for us enjoy a lifetime of wonderful experiences together.”

Josh Rodriguez & Paul Speirs • Las Vegas

Paul Speirs had a plan for how he would propose to Josh Rodriguez. But that plan changed when the couple were casually shopping for wedding rings. “We were looking around the store, trying on various styles of rings, when I let the moment take me,” Paul said. “I got down on my knee in the middle of the jewelry store and began my proposal! I told Josh that my intention was to have proposed to him on New Years’ Eve, with our song playing in the background, when Josh interrupted me to suggest I play our song on my phone, right then and there! It was a whirlwind — it was so romantic.”

Josh was thrilled to accept Paul’s proposal, and they bought their rings that afternoon. “The rings we selected were pre-engraved with one single word inside — faith,” Josh said. “We knew it was a message for us, that we had faith we would find the right person to spend our lives with — and we did. We decided to name our first child Faith, to always remember our good fortune in love.”

The couple was married on October 22, 2011 at the Resort on Mt. Charleston. They applaud the ruling at the 9th Circuit and eagerly look forward to their marriage being legally respected in the state they love and live in. “Josh is my husband, and we deserve to have our marriage respected,” Paul said.

Josh Miller & Steve Amend • Las Vegas

From an early age, both Josh Miller and Steve Amend knew they wanted to be parents – and as their relationship progressed, they began to make plans to start a family together. However, one big roadblock stood in their way: Their relationship, and their family, was not recognized in Nevada.

In 2010, they welcomed their son Caden into the world. “He has been the joy of our lives ever since,” Josh gushed. “Caden not only has two dads that love him very much, but he also has 4 grandparents in Vegas that spoil him!”

“Grandpa Bob, loves taking him to Legacy to teach him golf,” Steve said. “He is already better than his dad!”

Although Josh and Steve know that their family is complete as it is, they eagerly look forward to being legally married. “Marriage is important to us so that we know Nevada recognizes our relationship and values us as residents of Nevada,” Steve said. “We live our lives as a family, even without the recognition of the state. It is important to us to be married, right here in Nevada, so that our son will know that our family is no different and no less deserving of respect than any other family.”

Greg Flamer & Fletcher Whitwell • Las Vegas

For Greg Flamer and Fletcher Whitwell, 2014 began with a truly happy milestone: They welcomed their second child, a son, into their lives and have been excitedly looking forward to the year with their growing family in Las Vegas, Nevada. “Life is busy,” Greg laughed. “Between our son and his sister, who we adopted in 2011, our children are our real focus right now. We’re making sure they get everything possible out of life.”

Only one thing is missing to make their family feel “official” – marriage. With two young children, Greg and Fletcher are more concerned than ever about protecting their family and ensuring that they are secure. “It’s almost embarrassing to have to jump through all of these hoops to prove we’re a committed couple – especially after being together for almost 16 years,” Greg said.

“We have always wanted to get married, but we want to wait until it’s legal nationwide or legal in Nevada. We’re staying put – this is our home – and it means a lot to us for our two kids to have parents who are legally married and whose relationship is recognized by society.”