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Nebraska attorney
general wants ban on same-sex marriage reinstated

Nebraska attorney
general wants ban on same-sex marriage reinstated

Nebraska attorney general Jon Bruning argued Thursday that Nebraska's ban on same-sex marriage should be restored. In a 110-page brief filed with the eighth U.S. circuit court of appeals, Bruning said that U.S. district judge Joseph Bataillon was wrong to strike down Nebraska's five-year-old ban. Bataillon ruled in May that the measure was too broad and deprived gays and lesbians of participation in the political process, among other things. Seventy percent of Nebraska voters approved the constitutional amendment in 2000. The ban "does not violate any person's freedom of expression or association," Bruning wrote.

Opponents of the ban "are free to gather, express themselves, lobby, and generally participate in the political process however they see fit," he said. "Plaintiffs are free to petition state senators to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot. Plaintiffs are similarly free to begin an initiative process to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, just as supporters...did." Bataillon's ruling did nothing to change the status of same-sex 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 City-based Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union's Lesbian and Gay Project. David Buckel, senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal, has called the ban one of "the most extreme anti-gay-family laws in the nation." Forty states have so-called defense of marriage laws.

Opponents of same-sex marriage have pointed to Bataillon's ruling as a reason to seek a national ban. While the amendment specifically banned same-sex 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 barred from sharing health insurance and other benefits with their partners.

Bataillon said the amendment interferes not only with the rights of gay couples but also with foster parents, adopted children, and people in a host of other living arrangements. The judge said the ban amounted to punishment by going beyond merely defining marriage as the union of 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."

Bruning said "the presence of advocacy groups willing to file this case seems ample evidence that advocacy has not been impaired." "Plaintiffs' members enjoy all the benefits and protections of Nebraska law that any other person has," Bruning said. "Their homosexual members have the same right to lobby for change as their heterosexual members." (AP)

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