U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon ruled Monday that denying marriage for same-sex couples in Nebraska is unconstitutional. The ruling is set to go in effect on March 9th at 8:00 a.m., unless a stay is granted by the 8th Circuit.
In his 34-page decision Bataillon wrote: “Nebraska’s ‘Defense of Marriage’ Constitutional Amendment, Section 29, is an unabashedly gender-specific infringement of the equal rights of its citizens. The State primarily offers as its rational basis for this gender-specific discrimination the encouragement of biological family units. The essence of this rationale has been rejected by most courts and by no less than the Supreme Court.”Neb
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.
Seven same-sex couples filed a lawsuit last year challenging the state’s voter-backed ban. Last week, Bataillon heard arguments for and against a motion for an injunction to block enforcement of the ban while the lawsuit is pending.
The Nebraska Attorney General’s office has said it will appeal any decision blocking or overturning the voter-approved ban on gay marriage.
Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said, “Every day that loving and committed couples are denied the freedom to marry in the decreasing number of states that still discriminate against same-sex couples and their families is a day of tangible hardships and indignity. Fortunately, Nebraska may soon no longer be one of those discriminating states, thanks to today’s strong ruling from yet another court – the 65th in the past two years – affirming the freedom to marry. It is time for the U.S. Supreme Court to bring the country to national resolution and end marriage discrimination for all Americans.”
Same-sex couples can now marry in nearly three-fourths of the country. When couples are free to marry in Nebraska, there will still be 12 states that discriminate.
The U.S. Supreme Court announced January 17 that it would decide whether same-sex couples have a right to marry under the . A decision is expected by late June.