Nebraska’s strict same-sex marriage ban falls with Supreme Court ruling

Christopher Brown, left, and Tom Fennell hug after getting their marriage license at the Douglas County County Clerk's office in Omaha, Neb., Friday, June 26, 2015. Gay couples in Nebraska will now have their marriages legally recognized now that the U.S. Supreme Court declared Friday that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States.

Christopher Brown, left, and Tom Fennell hug after getting their marriage license at the Douglas County County Clerk's office in Omaha, Neb., Friday, June 26, 2015. Gay couples in Nebraska will now have their marriages legally recognized now that the U.S. Supreme Court declared Friday that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States. Nati Harnik, AP

Christopher Brown, left, and Tom Fennell hug after getting their marriage license at the Douglas County County Clerk's office in Omaha, Neb., Friday, June 26, 2015. Gay couples in Nebraska will now have their marriages legally recognized now that the U.S. Supreme Court declared Friday that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States.Nati Harnik, AP

Christopher Brown, left, and Tom Fennell hug after getting their marriage license at the Douglas County County Clerk’s office in Omaha, Neb., Friday, June 26, 2015. Gay couples in Nebraska will now have their marriages legally recognized now that the U.S. Supreme Court declared Friday that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States.

Updated: 7:00 p.m. CDT

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Gay couples in Nebraska will now have their marriages legally recognized in the state that has had one of the most restrictive same-sex union bans in the country, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Friday that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States.

Bil Roby and Greg Tubach, who have been together for 29 years and live in Lincoln, joined with other couples who celebrated the decision. They are among seven same-sex couples who sued last year to try to force the state to recognize their marriages, challenging the constitutionality of Nebraska’s ban, approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2000.

In addition to prohibiting gay marriage, it also outlawed civil unions and outlawed domestic partnerships.

“I’m quietly stunned,” Tubach said Friday following the announcement of the decision. “I did cry in the kitchen when I was texting a good friend of mine about it.”

The tears were for those people, like his uncle who had a long-term relationship with another man, who missed the historic ruling.

“It makes this bittersweet for me,” he said, his voice cracking. “He was a generation before me, and he’s not alive to celebrate this.”

Roby and Tubach successfully applied for a marriage license in Lancaster County within hours of the ruling.

“We already have the paperwork filled out,” Tubach said before heading to the courthouse.

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Other couples had already begun wedding ceremonies at the Douglas County Courthouse following the ruling Friday, according to Susan Ann Koenig, an attorney who represented the suing couples in Nebraska.

“We’re thrilled that after such an enduring commitment … their right to marry has been recognized here in Nebraska,” Koenig said.

Most county clerks in Nebraska appeared set to act in the wake of the high court’s ruling.

Douglas County Clerk Thomas Cavanaugh, who oversees the issuance of marriage licenses for Nebraska’s most populous county, which includes Omaha, said he ordered changes to the county’s marriage license applications earlier this year when a federal judge struck down Nebraska’s gay marriage ban as unconstitutional.

Days later, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed Nebraska’s ban to stay in place while it considered the state’s appeal and similar appeals in several other states.

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