Nevada filed notice Monday that it's withdrawing its support of the state's gay marriage ban.
Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, in a motion filed with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, said Nevada's legal arguments in defense of the voter-approved prohibition are no longer viable in light of the court's recent ruling that said potential jurors cannot be removed from a trial during jury selection solely because of sexual orientation.
"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 a statement.
Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican seeking re-election this year, said he agreed with 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," Sandoval said in an email to The Associated Press.
The state's move was an about-face from January, when the attorney general's office filed a lengthy brief supporting the gay-marriage ban, approved by voters in 2002.
Eight same sex couples sued the state, arguing the law is unconstitutional. A federal judge in Reno upheld the law in 2012, sending it to the appeals court in San Francisco.
In an initial brief supporting the law, the state argued that Nevada law defining marriage as between a man and a woman is a legitimate state interest, "motivated by the state's desire to protect and perpetuate traditional marriage."
But the same day Nevada's brief was filed, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit issued a ruling in another case that changed the legal dynamics and left the attorney general's office immediately rethinking the state's position.
The court found that potential jurors could not be excluded from jury duty because of sexual orientation, extending to gays and lesbians a civil right that the U.S. Supreme Court previously promised only to women and racial minorities.
Nevada lawmakers last year took the first step toward repealing the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage. If legislators approve Senate Joint Resolution 13 again next year, it will go to voters on the 2016 ballot.
The fight over same-sex marriage in Nevada comes as federal courts have struck down similar measures in other states, most recently in Utah and Oklahoma. Gay marriage is allowed in 17 states (including Illinois, where same-sex weddings are due to begin in June) and Washington, D.C.
The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is reviewing the cases from Utah and Oklahoma, with hearings scheduled for both in mid-April.
The Associated Press