A federal judge has ruled that Nebraska's proposed ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon's decision could allow couples to marry in the state within a week, according to Reuters.
Bataillon called the state lawmakers' original decision "an unabashedly gender-specific infringement of the equal rights of its citizens," upon reviewing a case brought to his court by seven same-sex couples, including a woman with stage four cancer who wants her California-wed wife to be able to provide financial protections for their children. He subsequently issued a preliminary injunction on the ban, to take effect on March 9th, while denying the state's request to stay his decision.
Specifically, the injunction called for "all relevant state officials...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," according to KETV.
The state filed an appeal within minutes of Bataillon's injunction. "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," Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts said. He pledged to work with the state's attorney general, who had requested Bataillon's order dismissed, to uphold the state's constitution.
In 2000, Nebraskan citizens voted in a state constitutional amendment that defined marriage as being a union between only a man and a woman. It also allowed the state to not recognize same-sex civil unions, domestic partnerships and other relationships.
"It is time to bring this unequal provision to an end," Bataillon said, according to KETV.
"Today is a day for celebration," ACLU Executive Director Danielle Conrad said in a statement. "The love and commitment our clients share will finally be entitled to equality and respect in the eyes of the law. Today, Nebraska's motto of 'equality before the law' rings true for gay and lesbian Nebraskans who seek to have their marriages recognized or who seek the freedom to marry right here in our great state."