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Federal judge strikes down Nebraska same-sex marriage ban



Updated: 12:40 p.m. CST

OMAHA, Neb. — A federal judge blocked Nebraska’s same-sex marriage ban on Monday, and the attorney general’s office a target=”_blank” href=””>immediately appealed the decision to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska sued the state in November on behalf of seven same-sex couples challenging the ban, which passed with the approval of 70 percent of voters in 2000. In addition to prohibiting gay marriage, the ban also forbids civil unions and legalized domestic partnerships.

Same-sex couples miss out on medical and financial benefits that are available to heterosexual married couples, U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon said in issuing the injunction, which takes effect March 9.

“All of the plaintiffs have further demonstrated psychological harm and stigma, on themselves and on their children, as a result of the non-recognition of their marriages,” he said in his 34-page ruling. “The plaintiffs have been denied the dignity and respect that comes with the rights and responsibilities of marriage.”

Bataillon rejected the state’s argument that the ban reflects the will of a majority of voters and promotes family stability. He said he believes the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately endorse same-sex marriage rights, which have been upheld in four appellate districts.

“The notion that some children should receive fewer legal protections than others based on the circumstances of their birth is not only irrational – it is constitutionally repugnant,” he said.

Bataillon previously struck down Nebraska’s gay marriage ban in 2005, and the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated it in 2006.

The Nebraska attorney general’s office filed an appeal right after Bataillon issued the injunction. A spokeswoman for Republican Attorney General Doug Peterson said attorneys in their office were reviewing the ruling and would issue a statement later Monday.

Nebraska’s case could be heard along with pending appeals filed by Missouri, Arkansas and South Dakota after judges in each of those states struck down same-sex marriage restrictions. Oral arguments in those cases are scheduled for May.

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