Nebraska couples await a ruling on the freedom to marry in their home state

Today, February 19, a federal judge will hear oral arguments in a landmark case seeking the freedom to marry in the great state of Nebraska. The case, Waters v. Heineman, is led by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska and involves more than a half dozen same-sex couples who have built their lives in Nebraska. 

The hearing today could decide the future of the freedom to marry in the Cornhusker State, impacting same-sex couples from across Nebraska. Freedom to Marry spoke with couples from across the state - including several of the plaintiffs fighting for marriage in court today - to highlight the wide range of Nebraskans who simply want the freedom to marry the person they love. Read their stories!

Sally & Susan Waters • Omaha, NE

Sally and Susan met 17 years ago, were married in 2008 in California, and have spent much of their time together raising their three children: Ella, Jaden, and Kayla. Tragically, last year, Sally was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer, which is terminal. The couple is struggling to both handle the grief of Sally’s diagnosis and to make arrangements to keep the family secure in the event of her passing. That's why the couple signed up to be plaintiffs in the Nebraska marriage case -- the family hopes that their home state will respect their love and commitment so they can be sure that they are all protected in the future. Read their full story here. Photo by Jason M. McClaren.

Jacque & Jen Owens • Omaha, NE

Jacque and Jen met in a pharmacy and, Jacque said, it was fate. "I knew that she was going to be my wife from the moment we bumped into each other," Jacque remembered. "I felt a connection with her from that moment, and we started texting and talking and, the next thing we knew, we were in love." They were married in Washington, DC two and a half years ago, but their home state of Nebraska doesn't legally recognize their commitment to each other. The couple hopes that, soon, their marriage will be respected in their home state -- in time for them to start the family they've always wanted.

Kenneth & Taylor Averell • Omaha, NE

After Kenneth and Taylor went on their first date, they quickly began spending a lot of time together, and loved getting to know one another. "It wasn't the all of a sudden, love at first sight, kind of love," Kenneth said. "It was a slow building of trust and friendship." When Kenneth's family met Taylor and fell in love with him, though, Kenneth realized that Taylor was the one and proposed. The couple were married in Iowa, but moved to Nebraska to be closer to family. Taylor and Kenneth hope that their marriage will soon be respected in their home state, where they hope to raise a family.

Nick Kramer & Jason Cadek • Omaha, NE

Nick and Jason met in 2003 when Jason was Nick’s server at a restaurant. Eight years later, they welcomed their baby girl, Alice, into the world. They were married out of state in 2013, but their home state of Nebraska, where they have been raising their daughter, does not respect their marriage. This means that only Nick was able to legally adopt Alice, and if anything should happen to him, Jason would have no legal right to their daughter. So Jason and Nick are fighting with the ACLU in Nebraska to have their marriage legally respected in the state they live in and love. Read their full story here. Photo by Jason M. McClaren.

Diane Merrell & Robyn Molden • Ceresco, NE

Diane and Robyn began dating thirteen years ago, and know that that is a long enough engagement -- it is time for them to get married! The couple has raised their two sons, aged 10 and four, together, but Robyn, an Army veteran, is not on their birth certificates, as she is not the biological mother. "Because we' can't marry, our sons can't qualify for any of Robyn's Army benefits," Diane said. "We and our boys deserve to be treated equally.

Lukas Rix & Mark Kanitz • Wayne, NE

When Lukas and Mark started dating, they lived three hours away from each other. However, after a year into their relationship, they knew they wanted to be closer -- so Mark picked up his life and moved to Lukas. He couldn't be happier with that decision -- now, they own a consignment store together called Rustic Treasures, and couldn't imagine being apart from each other. "I never fully realized the importance of marriage until I started noticing how complicated our lives are because we can not legally marry in Nebraska," Lukas said. Now, as they consider raising children, they are hoping that Nebraska will soon allow them to marry so they can finally start the family they dream of.

Greg Tubach & Bil Roby • Lincoln, NE

Greg and Bil met in Nebraska 28 years ago over a game of pool. They know they would never leave the state where they met and fell in love to get married -- they’re determined that they will have their wedding in the state they’ve called home together for almost 30 years. The couple wants to marry where their family, including Greg’s mom who lives in an assisted living home, can participate in their vows of commitment. Greg and Bil are working with the ACLU in Nebraska to fight for their freedom to have their dream wedding in their home state. Read their full story here.

Antonio & William Bass • Winnebago, NE

Antonio and William were married late last year, three years after they met. However, they had to go out of their home state of Nebraska in order to do so, and when they crossed back into their home state, they were not respected as a married couple. The two of them spend their lives helping others -- Antonio is a social worker, and William is a third-grade teacher. The couple hopes to someday have their own child to raise. "I love my husband," Antonio said. "We would like to be recognized in our home state."

Jon Holloway & Randy Wallace • Omaha, NE

Jon and Randy are true Nebraskans -- it's where they were both born, where they met, and where they fell in love. They've moved to many different cities within the state together before they settled down in Omaha, and they couldn't be happier living somewhere. The couple is hoping that, soon, Nebraska will bring the one thing it's been missing this whole time -- the freedom to marry. "There were instances when Randy was in the hospital and I wasn’t able to ask questions or be in the same room as him," Jon remembered. The couple hopes that they'll be able to marry by their 20th anniversary of being together -- which will be this May.

Hayley Milam & Sarai Hernandez • Lincoln, NE

Hayley and Sarai ended their first date watching The Bachelor at Hayley's house. "Three years later, we still haven’t missed an episode," Hayley laughed. The couple is planning their wedding for next fall, and can't wait for Nebraska to legalize the freedom to marry so they'll have no worries about being married in the state they call home. "Sarai is my best friend and the person I thought I would never find," Hayley said. "I want to spend every day for the next 80 years with this woman. And I want to feel like our love story matters."