Follow breaking news @lgbtqnation

Advocates hopeful rulings spell doom for Neb. gay marriage, civil unions ban

Thursday, January 16, 2014

OMAHA, Neb. — In the wake of recent rulings by federal judges to strike down state bans on same-sex marriage, marriage equality advocates are hoping to strike a similar blow to Nebraska’s strict ban that forbids even same-sex civil unions.

“We’re very optimistic,” said the Rev. Scott Jones, senior minister at First Central Congregational Church in Omaha who married his partner, Michael, four years ago in a religious ceremony in Oklahoma. The couple moved to Omaha and formalized their marriage in Iowa, which allows same-sex marriage.

nebraskaBut the couple has faced a litany of problems trying to live as a married gay couple in Nebraska, including a confusing tax situation forcing them to file separate state tax returns because Nebraska doesn’t recognize their marriage.

Now Jones believes the overturning of all gay marriage bans “is inevitable.”

“We’ve already won hearts and minds on this issue,” he said.

A federal judge struck down Oklahoma’s gay marriage ban Tuesday although the order was put on hold while state and local officials complete an appeal. It was the second time in a month a federal judge has set aside a deeply conservative state’s limits on same-sex marriage, after Utah’s ban was reversed in December.

Nebraska doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions, or domestic partnerships, under a constitutional amendment approved by 70 percent of voters in 2000.

The Nebraska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union – on behalf of a group dubbed Citizens for Equal Protection – sued the state in 2003 challenging the ban.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon struck down the measure in 2005, ruling it was overly broad and deprived gays and lesbians of participation in the political process, among other things.

But the victory was short-lived. In 2006, a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Bataillon’s ruling, reinstating Nebraska’s voter-approved ban.

Its reasoning was the bans in Nebraska and other states “limiting the state-recognized institution of marriage to heterosexual couples are rationally related to legitimate state interests and therefore do not violate the Constitution of the United States.”

Since then, there have been no federal challenges filed against the Nebraska law, and the ACLU said Wednesday that it has no plans to challenge the law again.

Ken Upton, an attorney for national civil rights organization Lambda Legal, said he thinks the 8th Circuit’s decision might have been different were it made today, citing shifting attitudes toward gay marriage.

“Nebraska’s ban is especially restrictive in the sense that it purports to cover so much more than marriage,” he said. “It really is one that, I think, if a court were to re-examine it today … it might get a different view.”

State Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, who supports same-sex marriage, has said he wants to explore a possible “middle ground” of allowing civil unions, which he believes would receive stronger support from voters.

Excluding Utah and Oklahoma, Nebraska and 26 other states still have constitutional prohibitions on same-sex marriage. Four more – Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wyoming – do not permit it through state laws.

Upton, who sat in on arguments against Nebraska’s ban before the 8th Circuit panel in 2006, said those hoping to see Nebraska’s ban overturned will find their best hope with the U.S. Supreme Court. He said it “has the appetite to take this issue on … and resolve this for the country once and for all.”

Upton said the country’s highest court would likely first hear a challenge regarding Utah’s gay marriage ban, which was struck down by a federal judge earlier this month, and could do so this year.

© 2014, Associated Press, All Rights Reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Share this article with your friends and followers:

Archives: ,

Filed under: Nebraska

22 more reader comments:

  1. Civil unions: the first step in invalidating bans on same sex marriage.

    Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 8:12pm
  2. Like dominoes, they shall fall…

    Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 8:12pm
  3. What about ks ppl

    Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 8:15pm
  4. True about civil unions – but they are not the same as marriage legally and morally!

    Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 8:16pm
  5. They are not the same but when a state passes them into law they create an unconstitutional "separate but equal" situation that can then be used to validate same sex marriage.

    Replied on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 8:36pm
  6. what an ugly state no offense to anyone from there..but I wouldn't wanna live in such a boring place

    Replied on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 10:34pm
  7. I don't think its about boring I think its about illegal!

    Replied on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 10:53pm
  8. :-) one more lol

    Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 8:19pm
  9. Their state motto should be “Nebraska: Like a big corn field, but less exciting than you think.”

    Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 8:28pm
  10. i will never go to that state after wat happyen to a girl there she was just like others around the world we all gods kids n wat they done to her is stupid hope the to guys pay

    Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 8:35pm
  11. Fuck Nebraska the US Constitution is the law of the land ! Nebraska can’t make laws that violate the US Constitution and that discriminate and deny people Equality Before the Law!

    Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 8:36pm
  12. Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 8:38pm
  13. #Nebraskan for #Equality NOW

    Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 8:41pm
  14. Nebraska’s state motto is Equality Before the Law.. It’s even written on the state flag.. But Nebraska is a bigoted prejudice state that discriminates against people for who they are and who and does not grant they Equal treatment nor Equality Before the Law! End Discrimination Bigotry And Prejudice against gay people in Nebraska! Equality Before the Law means Equality Before the Law!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 8:42pm
  15. I really hope LGBTQ people get all equal rights that they deserve because they are rightfully theirs just as much as any one else’s and the people that this country need wake the hell up because the LGBTQ people are not the problem and the is that our government is taking their rights away or denying them of their rights and have the government be watching the news no I didn’t think so because if they did they would know about these shooting that been happening all over our country but yet again they choose to ignore the real problems

    Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 8:42pm
  16. Nebraska’s state motto is Equality Before the Law.. It’s even written on the state flag.. But Nebraska is a bigoted prejudice state that discriminates against people for who they are and who and does not grant they Equal treatment nor Equality Before the Law! End Discrimination Bigotry And Prejudice against gay people in Nebraska! Equality Before the Law means Equality Before the Law!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 8:43pm
  17. there are people here in Nebraska like myself who are NOT prejudice and don’t discriminate others yes maybe our government does but we deserve to have the same EQUAL RIGHTS as everyone else we do have a lot of LGBTQ here that are fighting for our rights to marry our partners

    Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 8:59pm
  18. Yeah Nebraska isn’t a big corn field. Idiot.

    Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 9:29pm
  19. I live in Nebraska and honestly I don’t think even civil unions will be given equal rights anytime soon. I am afraid that Nebraska will be one of the last states that will legalize same sex unions. It is a terrible truth. I have found nothing but bigotry while living here.

    Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 10:29pm
  20. A step in the right direction most definitely. Come on NE let’s get the civil union for the lgbtq community passed.

    Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 10:49pm
  21. Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 10:56pm
  22. There will come a time when people will look back on this period in history and only feel sadness and contempt for those who fought against equality for all. Although I am often quite proud to be a Nebraskan, I am ashamed that my state has fought so hard to remain on the wrong side of history regarding marriage equality.

    Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 11:53pm