9th Circuit Court

9th Circuit Court

Landscape

The United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit covers nine states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. The circuit court is the highest federal court within that circuit - although, of course, its decisions are subject to potential review by the Supreme Court - and so a ruling in favor of the freedom to marry for a case out of one of the states would be binding to each of the states within the circuit.

On September 8, three cases - Nevada's Sevcik v. Sandoval, Idaho's Latta v. Otter, and a procedural question in Hawaii's Jackson v. Abercrombie - were considered by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Read more about both cases below, and see the other federal cases in each of the 9th Circuit cases making the case for marriage.

Sevcik v. Sandoval

What's Happening:

An oral argument was held before the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on September 8, 2014. A ruling is expected this fall.

If the ruling comes down in favor of the freedom to marry and there is no stay, it is possible that same-sex couples could be able to marry in Nevada almost immediately, since the Attorney General and Governor have said they will not defend the state's marriage ban. 

Case Background:

On April 10, 2012, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund filed a federal lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry for eight same-sex couples in Nevada who had been denied marriage licenses. Shortly after, a U.S. District Court judge for the District of Nevada agreed to hear the case, permitting the so-called Coalition for the Protection of Marriage to intervene as a defendant. 

On November 29, 2012, Judge Robert C. Jones ruled against Nevada's same-sex couples, saying that the state's current laws do not violate the Equal Protection Clause. Just days later, on December 3, 2012, Lambda Legal appealed the case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

On February 10, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto filed a motion requesting to withdraw her brief from this Nevada case that has been pending before the 9th Circuit Appeals Court since 2012. In the brief, she had argued in favor of banning same-sex couples from marrying, but in her withdrawal, she explained, "After thorough analysis and review, the arguments grounded upon equal protection and due process are no longer sustainable."

The decision was sparked by a January 21 ruling in a separate case in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals finding that gay people could not be excluded from juries because of their sexuality. Essentially, the case found that sexual orientation is a class protected by heightened scrutiny - and legal prognosticators had explained immediately following the ruling that it could dramatically alter the Sevcik v. Sandoval case.

Latta v. Otter

What's Happening:

An oral argument was held before the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on September 8, 2014. A ruling is expected this fall. 

On May 13, 2014, U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale, a federal judge in Idaho, ruled in favor of the freedom to marry, striking down the state’s discriminatory constitutional amendment that bans same-sex couples from marriage. The ruling was set to take effect on Friday, May 16, until the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the Governor of Idaho's request for a stay.

Key Excerpt from the Ruling (May 2014):

"Idaho’s Marriage Laws withhold from them a profound and personal choice, one that most can take for granted. By doing so, Idaho’s Marriage Laws deny same-sex couples the economic, practical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of marriage, relegating each couple to a stigmatized, second-class status. Plaintiffs suffer these injuries not because they are unqualified to marry, start a family, or grow old together, but because of who they are and whom they love." - Magistrate Judge Candy Dale

Case Background:

On November 8, 2013, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and private lawyers filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of four same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry and respect for their out-of-state marriages in Idaho. The lawsuit arguest that laws in Idaho that restrict marriage to different-sex couples and refuse to respect legal marriages of same-sex couples who married in other states violate the United States Constitution's commitment to equal protection and due process. 

The plaintiffs all hail from Boise, Idaho, and three of them are raising children. They include: Sue Latta and Traci Ehlers, a professional artist and adjunct professor at Boise State University who are already legally married; Andrea Altmayer and Sheila Robertson, who want to marry in Idaho to ensure that their family, including their son, is recognized in the state; Lori and Sharene Watsen, who are legally married in New York; and Amber Beierle and Rachael Robertson, who previously served a tour of duty in Iraq as a member of the Idaho Army National Guard.

Other Federal Cases in the 9th Circuit

< Back to Litigation page