Waters v. Heineman
On November 17, 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Nebraska, and the law firm of Koenig Dunne filed a legal challenge to Nebraska's law denying the freedom to marry to same-sex couples, on behalf of seven same-sex couples seeking to marry in state or have their legal marriages respected in Nebraska.
Additionally, the ACLU intends to file a separate motion for emergency relief on behalf of Sally Waters, who was diagnosed with breast cancer that has now progressed to terminal, Stage 4 status. Sally and her partner Susan in Omaha have been together for 17 years.
The case is filed on behalf of seven same-sex couples. On November 17, ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad said: "Today is an exciting day for all Nebraskans because freedom means freedom for everyone. The couples we represent in this historic case are all tax paying citizens who are active in their communities and who are contributing positively to our economy. These families have served our country, are successful in their professions, and are parents raising children. The couples we represent seek nothing more and nothing less than the freedom to marry who they love. Nebraska has waited long enough it is time for the Cornhusker state to extend the freedom to marry to all its citizens."
Nichols v. Nichols
In 2013, a same-sex couple filed a petition for the dissolution of their marriage in Nebraska, and the case is now before the Nebraska Supreme Court. The petition requests recognition for their out-of-state marriage for the purpose of filing the divorce and, in effect, challenges the constitutionality of Nebraska’s denial of respect for legal marriages. Several legal organizations, including the ACLU of Nebraska and Legal Aid of Nebraska, have filed friend-of-the-court briefs and cited additional couples facing the same problem in Nebraska.
On June 13, 2014, the Nebraska Supreme Court dismissed the case, saying that it could not address constitutional issues in the case because it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case because Nichols appealed a lower court's denial of the divorce from a conditional order rather than a final judgment. The plaintiff has said that she would continue pushing for the divorce.
The uncontested divorce petition was filed in Lancaster County, Nebraska Circuit Court on behalf of Bonnie Nichols and Margie Nichols, who married in Iowa in 2009. Under Nebraska law, it is unclear whether the plaintiffs' out-of-state marriage can be terminated, because Nebraska does not respect marriages between same-sex couples.
ACLU of Nebraska's Legal Director explained, "These individuals are trapped in a marriage that is valid and legally binding in many other states and local governments as well as many federal government agencies. Unlike other situations where a relationship doesn’t work out, these individuals are being told they don’t even have the chance to state their case to the courts. They are not able to marry another spouse, including a different sex spouse, in the future."