A federal court ruled Thursday against the right of same-sex couples to marry in a decision that said Nevada can legally limit marriage to between a man and a woman.
The 41-page ruling in Sevcik v. Sandoval comes after Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund filed the lawsuit in April seeking marriage rights for eight same-sex couples in the state. Nevada District Court Judge Robert C. Jones states in his ruling that denying marriage rights to same-sex couples does not violate the Equal Protection Clause.
Citing a 1972 case that challenged equal protection on the basis of gender and was dismissed, Jones, who was appointed to the federal bench by former President George W. Bush, wrote that the "protection of the traditional institution of marriage, which is a conceivable basis for the distinction drawn in this case, is a legitimate state interest."
Jones states that "heightened scrutiny" should not be applied in the case because gay people have not faced the same level of discrimination as other minorities in the past.
"Homosexuals have not historically been denied the right to vote, the right to serve on juries, or the right to own property," Jones wrote, adding that four recent wins for marriage equality at the ballot box in Maine, Maryland, Washington and Minnesota demonstrate the political power of gay Americans.
"The States are currently in the midst of an intense democratic debate about the novel concept of same-sex marriage, and homosexuals have meaningful political power to protect their interests," Jones continued. "It simply cannot be seriously maintained, in light of these and other recent democratic victories, that homosexuals do not have the ability to protect themselves from discrimination through democratic processes such that extraordinary protection from majoritarian processes is appropriate."
The ruling comes as the Supreme Court's nine justices meet in conference Friday morning to consider a number of cases regarding marriage equality, including several challenges to the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8.
The Supreme Court is expected to announce as early as Friday afternoon or as late as Dec. 3 which cases surrounding marriage equality the high court will hear arguments on in the coming term.
The Nevada ruling is expected to be appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the same court that struck down Proposition 8 before it was petitioned for review by the Supreme Court.
READ the full ruling here: