Federal judge blocks Nebraska’s gay marriage ban
Omaha, Neb. — A federal judge on Monday blocked Nebraska’s gay marriage ban, but the decision will not take effect for a week and the state plans to appeal.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon ordered the state not to enforce its ban. Last week he heard arguments for and against a motion for an injunction to block enforcement of the ban while a lawsuit challenging the ban is pending. Bataillon said the order will be effective March 9.
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.
The Nebraska Attorney General’s office has said it will appeal any decision blocking or overturning the voter-approved ban on gay marriage.
Bataillon previously struck down Nebraska’s gay marriage ban in 2005, saying it violated the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians. An 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel reinstated the ban in 2006.
The plaintiffs in the latest Nebraska lawsuit argue that they are harmed every day the ban remains enforced.
Susan and Sally Waters of Omaha, who have been together for 17 years and were legally married in California in 2008, are among the seven couples suing to overturn the ban. They returned to their native Nebraska in 2010.
Sally Waters was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer in 2013, and says that without formal recognition of their marriage, her spouse won’t receive the same tax and Social Security benefits to take care of the couple’s children and will have to pay an 18 percent inheritance tax on half of the property they share, including their family home.
Any rulings in the latest Nebraska challenge are likely to be affected by a different case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation’s high court announced Jan. 17 that it would decide whether same-sex couples have the constitutional right to marry everywhere in the U.S. A decision is expected by late June.
Gay marriage is currently allowed in 37 states and the District of Columbia.