Federal judge in Nebraska rules in favor of the freedom to marry

Today, March 2, federal Judge Joseph F. Bataillon in Nebraska ruled in favor of the freedom to marry, striking down the state's ban on marriage between same-sex couples -- a decision that will take effect on March 9, 2015 at 8:00am. A hearing in the case was held on Thursday, February 19. 

The ruling was in the case Waters v. Ricketts, which was filed on November 17 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska. The case was filed on behalf of seven same-sex couples who either were unmarried and wanted to marry in Nebraska or were married out of state and sought respect for their marriages within the state. 

Freedom to Marry president Evan Wolfson said today:

Every day loving and committed couples are denied the freedom to marry in the decreasing number of states that continue to discriminate against same-sex couples and their families is a day of tangible hardships and indignity. Fortunately, Nebraska may soon no longer be one of those discriminating states, thanks to today's strong ruling from yet another court -- the 65th in the past two years -- affirming the freedom to marry. It is time for the U.S. Supreme Court to bring the country to national resolution and end marriage discrimination for all Americans.

Judge Bataillon's ruling stated:

Nebraska's “Defense of Marriage" Constitutional Amendment, Section 29, is an unabashedly gender-specific infringement of the equal rights of its citizens. The State primarily offers as its rational basis for this gender-specific discrimination the encouragement of biological family units. The essence of this rationale has been rejected by most courts and by no less than the Supreme Court. With the advent of modern science and modern adoption laws, same sex couples can and do responsibly raise children. Unfortunately, this law inhibits their commendable efforts.

For the majority of married couples, those without children in the home, marriage is a legal and emotional commitment to the welfare of their partner. The State clearly has the right to encourage couples to marry and provide support for one another. However, those laws must be enforced equally and without respect to gender.

Today's ruling underscores that Nebraska - and the nation - is ready for marriage once and for all and provides a critical burst of momentum to demonstrate to the United States Supreme Court that states across the country - from the South to the Heartland - is ready for national resolution.