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

Beverly Reicks, left, and Kathy Petterson, the first same sex couple to wed in Omaha, Neb., leave the Douglas County Clerk's office Friday, June 26, 2015, following their ceremony.
Beverly Reicks, left, and Kathy Petterson, the first same sex couple to wed in Omaha, Neb., leave the Douglas County Clerk’s office Friday, June 26, 2015, following their ceremony. Nati Harnik, AP

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The Douglas County applications — as well as applications in Nebraska’s other large counties — changed language from “bride” and “groom” to “applicant 1” and “applicant 2.”

A few county clerks have expressed religious objections to issuing marriage licenses to gay couples but have said they would allow other staffers without such objections to handle those requests.

Both Gov. Pete Ricketts and Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said the state would respect the high court’s ruling, but they made clear they didn’t like it.

Ricketts said that 70 percent of Nebraska voters approved the ban, and Peterson said the court’s decision “represents a profound loss of freedom. It shows a lack of faith in democracy for the court to force this decision on every state.”

But the same-sex couples who challenged Nebraska’s ban shed tears of happiness Friday over the ruling.

Susan and Sally Waters, of Omaha, were married in 2008 in California, but did not have their marriage recognized in Nebraska until Friday. Both said they were shocked and thrilled by the decision. They attended the news conference Friday along with their 10-year-old daughter, Jade.

“It’s not that we didn’t think it might happen, but you always prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” Susan Waters said.

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The couple has been treated with respect and empathy from almost everyone they’ve met in Nebraska, she said, but were hurt by state officials’ support of the ban.

“It’s personal,” she said, fighting tears. “Being in the court and hearing the things that my government says about my relationship? That’s not neutral; that’s personal. I hope that for now, our government officials can take the high road … and help Nebraskans come to grips with this.”

Nick Kramer and Jason Cadek, another couple who sued Nebraska over the ban, said the couples who brought the suit plan to host a party at the Magnolia Hotel in downtown Omaha on July 10 to celebrate.

Kramer, whose young daughter was also at the news conference, warned those opposed to gay marriage to be careful of making negative comments about gay people — especially around children.

“Suicide is the No. 1 cause of death among gay and lesbian kids,” he said. “Because they hear this message from our politicians and our leaders saying they are lesser, and it’s just not right.”

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