In a rather dramatic turn of events, Gov. Brian Sandoval (a Republican) and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (a Democrat) of Nevada filed a motion with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals withdrawing their defense of the state law forbidding same-sex marriage.
Nevada state officials will no longer defend the state’s amendment banning same-sex couples from marrying against legal challenge, both the governor and attorney general’s offices announced Monday.
The decision comes in the context of an ongoing challenge to that marriage amendment that is currently before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is seeking to withdraw a previously filed defense of the marriage amendment in that case.
“When the Federal District Court decided this case in November 2012, the law regarding treatment of same-sex couples under traditional marriage laws was uncertain,” she said in a statement. “But the legal landscape has since changed.”
The court filing at the 9th Circuit Monday states that the filing is made on behalf of Gov. Brian Sandoval, the named defendant in the case. Cortez Masto is a Democrat, and Sandoval is a Republican.
A spokeswoman for Sandoval, Mary-Sarah Kinner, told BuzzFeed Monday evening, “Based upon the advice of the Attorney General’s office and their interpretation of relevant case law, it has become clear that this case is no longer defensible in court.”
What happens now is not clear. It could be a replay of the California case, in which the Supreme Court ruled that no one other than the state government had standing to defend the law. But since the appeal was filed by the plaintiffs, not the state, it can’t be withdrawn by the state. I suppose they could ask for a summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, or perhaps a consent decree. Either of those options would void the state law and there would be no one to appeal to the Supreme Court. Odd situation.