Monday, July 17, 2006

Woo-Hoo! Our State Constitution Again Discriminates Against Gay People!!!

by Kyle Michaelis
I'll spare everyone the legal analysis (which I'm not really qualified to provide in the first place). Federal District Court Judge Joseph Bataillon's suspension of Nebraska's Constitutional Amendment prohibiting state recognition of same sex relationships was over-ruled last week by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Omaha World-Herald reports:
A federal appeals panel ruled Friday that the state had a legitimate interest in promoting "responsible procreation" within the confines of traditional marriage when it approved the 2000 ban.

The three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis also ruled that the state's argument that traditional marriage was the "optimal partnership for raising children" was a rational justification for prohibiting same-sex marriages.

Michael Gordon of Citizens for Equal Protection, whose organization challenged the ban on behalf of Nebraska's gay and lesbian citizens, said the lawsuit "was never about marriage" but about gay couples' basic rights, such as making medical decisions on behalf of each other.

The same-sex marriage ban, also known as Initiative 416, was approved by 70 percent of Nebraska voters in 2000. Gay rights supporters say the Nebraska amendment went farther than similar laws elsewhere in the country, because it blocks any legal recognition of same-sex couples....

Nebraska's amendment was challenged on the grounds that it deprived gay men and lesbians of basic rights, including the right to participate in the political process.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon of Omaha agreed with the opponents and last year overturned the ban. Bataillon ruled that the ban was motivated by "animus" toward homosexuals....

Gordon said his group will meet over the weekend to discuss its next step.

It could ask the full 8th U.S. Circuit Court to hear the case - a request that would have to be made by the end of the month - or seek legislative remedies not yet tried. The case eventually could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.....

Gov. Dave Heineman applauded the ruling.

"I am grateful that the 8th Circuit has seen fit to uphold our state's right to define and defend marriage," he said. "All stable societies base their successes on the unique bonds of the family structure, and I am pleased that we can define marriage as between a man and a woman."

U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., also praised the decision: "I support this long-awaited and common-sense decision by the 8th Circuit. States have always had jurisdiction over marriage laws. Today's ruling should not come as a surprise."

Not particularly shocking, this issue is just going to be one of those that's going to take a couple more years - or even decades - to resolve. Whether or not gay marriage should be recognized, this Amendment's going beyond the definition of marriage and precluding the recognition of same sex relationships for any reason is one of those shameful facts that one day will be looked back upon as nothing more than a sad manifestation of our culture's reactionary fear of change.

Still, the reinstatement of Nebraska's shame may ultimately prove for the best. By placating the likes of Sen. Hagel with this ruling - a man who at least recognizes this sort of social policy has no place in the U.S. Constitution - I tend to believe America can get back on the course towards greater recognition and protection of non-traditional families.

The reactionaries can have this battle, but even they know they can't win the war. Time is on our side. Progress is on our side. Justice is on our side. All they have are hate, fear, and ignorance - with most of Nebraska's 70% motivated by the fear and ignorance side of the equation.

Understandable, really. Change doesn't come easy. It takes time. Though I'm sorry for those caught in the middle of this cultural crossfire, I hope they can see that things are getting better - they're getting better all the time.

For those who want to show solidarity with Nebraska's GLBT community in its struggle, please consider attending the following event:
Hands Around The Nebraska State Capitol
Friday, July 21, 2006
5:00pm - 6:00pm
Nebraska State Capitol
Lincoln, NE

All members of the GLBT Community, organizations, allies and fair minded citizens from across the state are encouraged to attend. The human chain will be formed as a statement of solidarity and our unwavering commitment to equality for ALL people in the state of Nebraska.

For more information, see


Anonymous Nancy Brink said...

We are appealing the 8th Circuit's ruling--the appeal was filed on Friday, July 27--to the full 8th Circuit.

Have you thought of the connections between 416 in 2000 and the 2 ballot initiatives that you are blogging about currently. The money to get 416 on the ballot also came from out of state.


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