Nevada Lt. Gov. candidates agree with dropping fight for gay marriage ban

Both GOP lieutenant governor candidates, Sue Lowden and Mark Hutchison, said Wednesday they agree with the decision by Nevada’s governor and attorney general to drop the state’s legal defense of its law banning gay marriage.

“I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Hutchison, an attorney, said in a statement. “Governor Sandoval and I share the same personal position on this issue and believe that all parties in the case and all Nevadans deserve an answer to the constitutional question presented in the appeal.”

Lowden said she doesn’t know “the intricate legal arguments” but supports the move.

“Nevada law allows this decision to be made by the governor and the attorney general,” Lowden said in a statement. “We have a Republican governor and a Democrat attorney general who have decided this case is not defensible. Since I am not an attorney and they are, I respect and accept their legal opinion.”

Lowden, a former state senator who has run casinos with her husband, said she is more focused on the primary duties of the part-time lieutenant governor.

“I am more concerned with creating an environment in Nevada that will encourage job creation,” Lowden said. “My focus … will be job creation by encouraging economic development and tourism.”

Whoever wins the job would replace Sandoval if he wins re-election but doesn’t complete a second term. Speculation is that Sandoval could run for the U.S. Senate in 2016 against Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., although Sandoval has said he is happy being governor.

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto on Monday filed a motion with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to withdraw her Jan. 24 brief supporting Nevada’s Defense of Marriage constitutional amendment, which won final voter approval in 2002. Sandoval concurred with Masto’s reasoning that the law is “no longer defensible in court.”

Masto and Sandoval, a former attorney general and federal judge, determined that a 9th Circuit ruling in SmithKline Beecham Corp. v. Abbott Laboratories undercut Nevada’s ban by saying courts may not discriminate in jury selection based on sexual orientation. The ruling has wider implications and could be applied to gay marriage cases.

Hutchison said the Nevada case is now in the court’s hands.

“The motion recently filed by the attorney general in the 9th Circuit expressly recognizes that the withdrawal of the states’ legal brief does not affect the court’s ability to decide this case,” Hutchison said.

“The Coalition for the Protection of Marriage has also made clear the legal arguments that it believes satisfy the higher legal standard articulated by the 9th Circuit in its SmithKline decision,” he added. “The 9th Circuit, therefore, has before it the arguments and facts to decide the issue.”

The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund in 2012 challenged the constitutionality of Nevada’s law, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, on behalf of eight same-sex couples.

In 2012. U.S. District Judge Robert C. Jones upheld the law, finding that it does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Lambda appealed to the 9th Circuit. The Coalition for the Protection of Marriage, which led the petition drive that resulted in Nevada’s ban, is defending the law, arguing it is constitutional.

Oral arguments will be scheduled sometime after Feb. 24, Lambda said.

Contact reporter Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal .com or 702-387-2919. Follow @lmyerslvrj on Twitter.