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Nevada Drops Defense of Voter-Approved Gay Marriage Ban

Nevada officials have dropped their defense of the state's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, saying a recent legal decision would no longer make their arguments "sustainable" in court.

Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto released a statement Monday saying that the state would no longer defend the ban in a current case pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Masto, a Democrat, said a recent, unrelated ruling in the 9th Circuit panel has made the state's legal arguments unviable. The panel ruled that a trial cannot pick and choose jurors based solely on their sexual orientation. The ruling elevated gay and lesbian jurors to the same protected class previously reserved for racial minorities and women.

"After thoughtful review and analysis, the state has determined that its arguments grounded upon equal protection and due process are no longer sustainable," Masto said in the statement.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, also issued a statement voicing support for the attorney general's action. "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."

Just last month, Nevada filed a brief supporting its ban on same-sex marriage in a case currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The case involves eight same-sex couples challenging the state's gay marriage ban, which was approved by over 60 percent of voters in both 2000 and 2002. The couples had lost their challenge in district court, and therefore appealed their case to the 9th Circuit.

The unrelated panel ruling that determined potential jurors cannot be eliminated based solely on their sexual orientation was issued Jan. 21, the same day Masto submitted her brief supporting the state's ban on gay marriage in the separate 9th Circuit appeals court case. Masto's previous brief had argued that Nevada's ban on gay marriage served a legitimate state interest, the "desire to protect and perpetuate traditional marriage."

Although the state will no longer be defending its ban, the case will still play out in the 9th Circuit. As MSNBC notes, the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage, another party in the case supporting the ban, will likely take over defending the ban now that the state has bowed out.

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