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Gay groups call
on court to kill antigay Nebraska amendment

Gay groups call
on court to kill antigay Nebraska amendment

A lower court ruling that struck down a ban on same-sex marriage in Nebraska should stand, groups say.

A lower court ruling that struck down a proposed broad amendment banning same-sex marriage and other partner rights in Nebraska should stand, the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal argued on Monday before the U.S. court of appeals for the eighth circuit. "This is the most extreme antigay family law in the nation, and it, in effect, put a sign on the door of the Nebraska legislature saying 'Same-Sex Couples Not Allowed,'" said David Buckel, senior counsel at Lambda Legal. "Judge Bataillon got it right because he put democracy back in action, giving gay Nebraskans a level playing field on which to advocate for legal protections for their families."

In addition to barring same-sex couples from marriage, the law, which passed in November 2000, explicitly banned any legal recognition of a same-sex couple in a "civil union, domestic partnership, or other similar same-sex relationship." In May 2005, federal district judge Joseph F. Bataillon struck down the constitutional amendment in response to a legal challenge brought by Lambda Legal and the ACLU on behalf of ACLU Nebraska and two statewide LGBT lobbying and education organizations.

The court ruled that the amendment was too far-reaching and that it barred lesbian and gay people from participating in the democratic process, in violation of the U.S. Constitution's equal protection guarantee and prohibition on Bills of Attainder. The decision does not mean that the state has to allow same-sex couples to marry or to form civil unions or domestic partnerships but instead allows gay couples to lobby their legislators for protections for their relationships. "As we stressed to the court today, states can't turn lesbian and gay people into political outcasts," said Tamara Lange, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, who argued before the court. "Yet Nebraska enacted a law that doesn't even allow gay people to lobby for protections for their relationships. The lower court understood this when it struck down this law. We hope the court of appeals agrees." (Advocate.com)

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