Same-Sex Marriage Ban In Nebraska Was Just Struck Down By An Brilliantly Worded Injunction
It's a glorious day in Nebraska. On Monday, a federal judge ruled Nebraska's gay marriage ban unconstitutional, calling the ban an "unabashedly gender-specific infringement of the equal rights of its citizens." The decision comes after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in November on behalf of seven same-sex couples who challenged the ban. After denying the state's request to stay his decision, Senior U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon issued a preliminary injunction ordering state officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples starting March 9.
According to Judge Bataillon's injunction:
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.
Judge Bataillon also wrote in his ruling:
All of the plaintiffs have further demonstrated psychological harm and stigma, on themselves and on their children, as a result of the non-recognition of their marriages.... The notion that some children should receive fewer legal protections than others based on the circumstances of their birth is not only irrational — it is constitutionally repugnant.
In accordance with the order, county clerks will be able to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples starting next Monday. Douglas County Clerk Tom Cavanaugh has even suggested that couples wishing to wed download and fill out their forms beforehand to avoid long waits on Monday. These new forms will say "applicant 1" and "applicant 2" instead of "bride" and "groom."
"Today is a day for celebration," Danielle Conrad, executive director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska, told Reuters. "The love and commitment our clients share will finally be entitled to equality and respect in the eyes of the law."
However, it wasn't all good news. Within minutes of the ruling, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson's office appealed the ruling to the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. And Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts said in a statement on Monday:
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.
Ricketts also said that he would work with Peterson to "uphold Nebraska's Constitution and the will of the people of our great state." By "the will of the people," Ricketts is referring to a majority vote by Nebraska citizens in 2000 that established the state's gay marriage ban. Seventy percent of voters adopted a state constitutional amendment that defined marriage as between a man and a woman and did not recognize civil unions or any other type of relationship between gay couples.
But that was 15 years ago. Look at how much has changed in 15 years — 37 states have legalized same-sex marriage (Nebraska will become the 38th when Judge Bataillon's order takes effect on March 9) and the American public has become increasingly accepting of gay marriage, with support surpassing opposition in polls, since Massachusetts became the first state to legalize it in 2004.
That's the mentality Judge Bataillon shared when he rejected the state's claim that the ban reflects the majority of the people. And that's the mentality Judge Bataillon believes the Supreme Court shares as well; the federal judge said in his ruling that he believes the Supreme Court will ultimately side with same-sex couples later this year, and rule that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right no matter where you live. Monday's not looking so bad now, amiright?
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