Federal Judge Lifts Ban On Same-Sex Marriage

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A federal judge lifted Nebraska's same-sex marriage ban, effective March 9th.

In a 34-page court order, Senior United States District Judge Joseph Bataillon ruled that Nebraska must recognize same-sex marriages.

"It is ordered 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," said Judge Bataillon in the ruling.

Same-sex marriages will be allowed starting Monday, March 9th at 8 a.m. Nebraska is the 38th state to allow same-sex marriage.

LGBT couples said the ruling was a victory for their community after years of fighting the ban.

"I feel elated. It's really incredible. It's just one of those days that has been so long coming and I've been watching the news and the whole marriage equality battle unfold over the last 10 years," said Charles Coley, a Nebraska resident who married his husband in Iowa after the ban was lifted there.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska filed the motion for an injunction that would order the state to recognize same-sex marriages in November. The lawsuit was filed by seven same-sex couples seeking to have their marriages recognized despite the state's ban passed by voters in 2000.

In a news conference Monday, the ACLU declared the ruling a victory.

"It was amazing that it happened first thing in the morning, and what better way to start off the week," said Jason Cadek standing with his husband Nick Kramer and three-year-old daughter Alice. The couple was a plaintiff in the case.

The 34-page order detailed the hardships each couple faces not having their marriages legally recognized. Cadek does not have legal rights to their daughter, who Kramer adopted.

He said in the ruling: "The lack of legal parent-child relationship between the child and Jason Cadek denies their daughter important protections and resources and causes them profound stress and insecurity."

The court order continued for each couple, which attorney Angela Dunne said showed Judge Bataillon understood the complexities of not having marriages recognized.

"We knew upfront his primary concern were the couples and their real life and how is this impacting them. So we felt like the opinion today resonated with that care, concern and compassion," said Dunne.

Less than an hour after the ruling, the Nebraska Attorney General's office filed an appeal with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Both Attorney General Doug Peterson and Governor Pete Ricketts said the judge's ruling was based off gender-discrimination rather than marriage being a fundamental right. In 2000, 70% of Nebraska voters agreed marriage is defined between a man and a woman.

"The most relevant numbers are the 70% because that's the last time we voted on it. And as the Attorney General is pointing out that's the appropriate way to amend the constitution. As constitutional officers, he and I are both sworn to uphold the constitution. And that's what we're here to tell you. That's what we're going to do," said Governor Ricketts in a news conference.

However, Judge Bataillon mentioned the 2000 vote in the ruling.

"The Amendment is not somehow insulated from review because it was enacted by a significant majority," he said. Quoting another ruling: "Minorities trampled on by the democratic process have recourse to the courts; the recourse is called constitutional law."

Douglas County Clerk Tom Cavanaugh told WOWT 6 News he expects long lines Monday and encouraged people to download the new marriage application from their website and bring them into the office.

"It's pretty exciting. It's very historic and a week from today we expect to have quite a few customers," said Cavanaugh.