Archive for Friday, June 10, 2005

Appeal filed to restore Nebraska’s prohibition of same-sex marriage

June 10, 2005


— An appeal seeking to restore Nebraska's ban on same-sex marriage was filed Thursday as expected.

"We look forward to having another day in court and defending Nebraskans' right to amend their constitution as they see fit," Atty. Gen. Jon Bruning said, in a brief statement announcing the filing of the appeal.

Nebraska's 5-year-old ban was struck done by U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon on May 13. Bataillon said the measure was too broad and deprived gays and lesbians of participation in the political process.

Seventy percent of Nebraskans approved the amendment in 2000.

The judge's ruling did nothing to change the status of gay marriage in Nebraska. It was not allowed before the ban's adoption and it remains against the law.

The lawsuit challenging the ban was filed by New York-based Lambda Legal and the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Project.

David Buckel, senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal, said Thursday's appeal was expected. However, he was hopeful the appeal would be rejected.

"The law that Judge Bataillon struck down is the most extreme anti-gay family law in the nation," Buckel said.

Forty states have so-called "Defense of Marriage" laws.

Al Riskowski, executive director of the Nebraska Family Council, which led the petition drive to get the ban on the ballot, said he expected the decision to be overturned on appeal.

"We are delighted that the state of Nebraska recognizes the importance of upholding the traditional definition of marriage," Riskowski said. "It's so important to us as a state and a country. If the definition of marriage would potentially be changed, what we teach our children about marriage and family would radically change."

Opponents of gay marriage, including Riskowski, have pointed to the May ruling as a reason to seek a national ban.

While the amendment specifically banned gay marriage, it went further than similar bans in many states by prohibiting same-sex couples from enjoying many of the legal protections that heterosexual couples enjoy. Gays and lesbians who work for the state or the University of Nebraska system, for example, were banned from sharing health insurance and other benefits with their partners.

In his May decision, Bataillon said the amendment interfered not only with the rights of gay couples but also with foster parents, adopted children and people in a host of other living arrangements.

Bruning had promised an appeal when Bataillon's decision was released.

The case will be considered by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in St. Louis. No date for arguments has been set.

In his ruling, Bataillon said Nebraska's ban "imposes significant burdens on both the expressive and intimate associational rights" of gays and lesbians and "creates a significant barrier to the plaintiffs' right to petition or to participate in the political process."

Buckel of Lamda Legal said opponents of the ban were not seeking the legalization of gay marriages in Nebraska.

"We're just asking for the rights of our families to be able to advocate for protections for those families from the Legislature," he said.

Bataillon said the ban amounted to punishment by going beyond merely defining marriage as between a man and a woman, noting that it also says the state will not recognize two people in a same-sex relationship "similar to marriage."


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