Sevcik v. Sandoval and Jackson v. Abercrombie

Brief Filed: 10/13
Court: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Year of Decision: 2014

Read the full-text amicus brief (PDF, 140KB)


This case challenges whether the Equal Protection Clause, part of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, does not prohibit the state from limiting marriage to people of the opposite sex.

Index Topic

Sexual Orientation (discrimination; same-sex marriage)


These two cases, arising in Hawaii and Nevada, respectively, had similar outcomes in that the District Courts each found there was no constitutional right to marriage for couples of the same sex. In both cases, the courts applying rational basis review, ruled that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment does not prohibit the state from limiting marriage to people of the opposite sex. The Hawaii case, based on Hawaii's marriage statute, also upheld the legitimacy of state policy refusing to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. The Nevada case involves the validity of an amendment to the state's constitution banning same-sex marriage.

APA's Position

APA's brief relied on much of the scientific and professional literature sited in previous marriage briefs — that most gay men and lesbians do not experience their sexual orientation as resulting from a voluntary choice; that the consensus of mental health professionals and researchers has been that homosexuality and bisexuality are normal expressions of human sexuality; that they pose no inherent obstacle to leading a happy, healthy and productive life; and that there is no scientific basis for concluding that same-sex couples are any less fit or capable parents than heterosexual couples. APA's position, based on that science, is that the states' judgment that, in the realm of intimate relationships, legally united same-sex couples are inherently less deserving of society's full recognition than heterosexual couples is unconstitutional. APA's position is that by devaluing and delegitimizing the relationships that constitute the very core of homosexual orientation, the Nevada and Hawaii laws challenged by this brief compound and perpetuate the stigma historically attached to homosexuality, and that the states' judgments should be reversed.


On Oct. 7, 2014, the court ruled in favor of marriage equality. The opinion relied on the APA's brief as follows: 

As one of the Nevada plaintiffs' experts testified, there is no empirical support for the idea that legalizing same-sex marriage would harm — or indeed, affect — opposite-sex marriages or relationships. That expert presented data from Massachusetts, a state which has permitted same-sex marriage since 2004, showing no decrease in marriage rates or increase in divorce rates in the past decade. See Amicus Brief of Massachusetts et al. 23–27; see also Amicus Brief of American Psychological Association et al. 8–13. It would seem that allowing couples who want to marry so badly that they have endured years of litigation to win the right to do so would reaffirm the state’s endorsement, without reservation, of spousal and parental commitment. From which aspect of same-sex marriages, then, will opposite-sex couples intuit the destructive message defendants fear? Defendants offer only unpersuasive suggestions.