Judge: Nebraska cannot ban same-sex marriage

Photo: Nati Harnik | AP
Plaintiffs, Susan (left) and Sally Waters (right) leaving court in Omaha, Nebraska on Thursday, February 19. Photo: Nati Harnik | AP

On Monday, a U.S. federal judge ruled the ban on same-sex marriage in Nebraska unconstitutional. Officially, couples can now marry in the state within a week.

Reuters reports on the ruling by U.S. Federal District Judge, Joseph Bataillon, where he states the ban is a violation of same-sex couples’ rights. Bataillon declares Nebraska’s ban an “unabashedly gender-specific infringement of the equal rights of its citizens” and that “all relevant state officials are ordered to treat same-sex couples the same as different sex couples in the context of processing a marriage license or determining the rights, protections, obligations or benefits of marriage”, as reported by the local news station in Nebraska, KETV.

The overruling follows the decision made by Nebraska voters in 2000 that adopted a new state constitutionals amendment defining marriage between one man and one woman. The decision did not recognize any sort of partnership or civil union of same-sex couples.

KETV posts the link to the injunction here.

Bataillon continues by stating that his ruling would take effect at 8 a.m. on March 9, which means same-sex couples will be legally married in the eyes of the state. Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson says how “It is time for the U.S. Supreme Court to bring the country to national resolution and end marriage discrimination for all Americans.”

The Reuters article writes how the many plaintiffs in the case are thrilled by the decision. This includes Sally Waters, who is diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. This new recognition from Nebraska will allow her 2008 marriage to partner, Susan Waters, legal. The two are suing for marriage benefits related to taxes and Social Security in order to provide financial security for their family.

However, Nebraska state officials were quick to appeal the ruling. Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts released a statement on Monday saying, “The definition of marriage is an issue for the people of Nebraska, and an activist judge should not substitute his personal political preferences for the will of the people.”

This isn’t the first time the public has seen an appeal on same-sex marriage ban. The U.S. has recently seen challengers to bans in states such as Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and even Kentucky.

The new versions of marriage licenses are found in this online form, where applicants will no longer be identified as “bride” and “groom”. Instead, the form will use “applicant 1” and “applicant 2.”

To date, courts, legislatures and voters in 37 states have legalized gay marriage or are about to do so. Meanwhile, 13 states have constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. Photo: Pew Research Center
To date, courts, legislatures and voters in 37 states have legalized gay marriage or are about to do so. Meanwhile, 13 states have constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. Photo: Pew Research Center
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