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3 Nevada couples cast gay marriage argument before federal court as key for their kids

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LAS VEGAS — For most of their nearly 43 years together, Mary Baranovich and Beverly Sevcik kept their home life to themselves.

They exchanged rings in October 1971 while living in Seattle, but worried they might lose their bookkeeping jobs or be forced to give up Sevcik's three pre-teen children for adoption if their lesbian relationship was exposed.

"We never hid the fact, but never discussed it either," said Sevcik, 76, the lead plaintiff of an April 2012 lawsuit seeking same-sex marriage rights on behalf of eight couples in Nevada that will be heard at a San Francisco federal appeals court Monday.

Baranovich, 78, said the fight for gay rights today reminds her of the historic struggles for racial and gender equality in the U.S. she witnessed decades ago, but is more personal for the couples.

"We still aren't equal unless we have the right to marriage," Sevcik said.

The couple, from Carson City, planned to attend oral arguments Monday before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Two of their three adult children will be with them.

In all, five of the eight Nevada couples who are plaintiffs in the case planned to be there in person for the landmark Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund challenge to Nevada's ban on same-sex marriage, Lambda spokeswoman Lisa Hardaway said.

The lawsuit argues that a 2002 state constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution by denying same-sex couples in Nevada the same rights, dignity and security that other married couples enjoy.

Opponents, led by the Idaho-based Coalition for the Protection of Marriage, argue that society benefits when heterosexual couples marry and raise their own children. They argue that defending traditional marriage protects religious liberties, and that elected lawmakers, not courts, should decide the issue.

PHOTO: FILE - This undated file image provided by Lambda Legal shows plaintiffs and same-sex couple Beverly Sevcik, right, and Mary Baranovich. The same-sex marriage debate returns Monday Sept. 8, 2014, to the same San Francisco federal appeals court that has already issued two significant rulings in support of gay weddings. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will consider separate lawsuits stemming from gay marriage bans in Idaho, Nevada and Hawaii. So far, 19 states and Washington D.C. now allow gay marriages even though the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to directly rule on whether states can impose bans. (AP Photo/Lambda Legal, File)
FILE - This undated file image provided by Lambda Legal shows plaintiffs and same-sex couple Beverly Sevcik, right, and Mary Baranovich. The same-sex marriage debate returns Monday Sept. 8, 2014, to the same San Francisco federal appeals court that has already issued two significant rulings in support of gay weddings. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will consider separate lawsuits stemming from gay marriage bans in Idaho, Nevada and Hawaii. So far, 19 states and Washington D.C. now allow gay marriages even though the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to directly rule on whether states can impose bans. (AP Photo/Lambda Legal, File)

Attorneys with the organization, which backed the state constitutional amendment, declined comment.

Tara Newberry, a Las Vegas lawyer and former Cincinnati police officer who is raising two children, ages 4 and 2, with her partner, Adele Terranova, called Monday's arguments before the 9th Circuit a critical juncture.

"If the law says our marriage is recognized, it goes a long way toward what the public thinks as well," Newberry said. "I don't understand how our relationship, our children, our family, our marriage hurts anyone else."

Newberry and Terranova have been together almost 10 years and married in California in 2008. They spent 18 months fighting to get Newberry listed on Terranova's son's birth certificate, and faced hospital emergency room questions about which woman was their daughter's real mother.

"Our family is no different than any other family," Terranova said. "We have the same day-to-day struggles as anyone else. Unfortunately, unlike other families we don't know where our rights will be if something would happen."

Fletcher Whitwell and Greg Flamer said they can't take off work in Las Vegas to travel to San Francisco for Monday's court arguments.

"We're two parents who work full-time, with taxes and a mortgage and other things a traditional family has," said Flamer, a Clark County Family Services licensing supervisor. "But we're two daddies."

Whitwell and Flamer have been together for more than 16 years and are registered domestic partners in Nevada. They have a 3-year-old daughter and a 7-month-old son, and say they want to marry because children should grow up with married parents.

"Our biggest motivation in this is the kids," said Whitwell, an advertising executive.

"We want to make the family we have complete, like everybody else," he said. "And we want the same legal protections as other families."

All the latest news surrounding the same sex marriage debate can be found here.

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All the latest news surrounding the same sex marriage debate can be found here.


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