In November 2000, voters in Nebraska voted by an overwhelming majority of 70% of registered voters to place a constitutional amendment in the state constitution defining marriage between one man and one woman. But over the last year the legislature has taken a progressive step in moving Nebraska forward with the introduction of three LGBTQ bills. Now members of the legislature are taking it a step further and reigniting the same-sex marriage debate in Nebraska.
Lawmakers convened a hearing on Friday in response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June, that ruled Sec 3 of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, unconstitutional. The ruling cleared the way for same-sex couples to receive federal tax, health and pension benefits.
Focusing on restrictions in place for same-sex couples in Nebraska who want to marry, and or have already married in other states but find there marriage as not recognized by the state government. Nebraska doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions, or domestic partnerships, under Article 1 Section 29 of the state constitution.
Reverend Scott Jones, senior minister at First Central Congregational Church in Omaha, said “Our family is more valued and better protected by the law when we cross the river (to Iowa) to shop at Menard’s then it is when we are in our own home,” Jones said. “This bizarre situation is unsustainable … It’s clear that our tax filing will be more complicated by Nebraska law, and may force us to pay higher taxes — which is ironic in a state that values lower taxes.”
Reverend James Patterson also a pastor in Omaha said that “same-sex marriage is an erosion of Christian principles.” The Nebraska Catholic Conference has also said it is against repealing the amendment.
State Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, who supports same-sex marriage, has said he wants to explore the possibility of civil unions, which he believes would receive stronger support from voters.
Sen. Ashford said ” I can come up with no other conclusion than gay people in loving relationships are a massive benefit to our state and our society.”
Sen. Chambers a long serving member of the legislature who has always pushed the state’s boundaries in civil rights said he plans to introduce legislation in the next session that starts the first Wednesday in January to authorize same-sex marriage.
Sen Chambers went on to say “We have to take this bull by the horns, and not let Nebraska forever, in every way, be backward,” Of the gay community, he said, “I am looking at people who are disrespected, who are humiliated, not because of something they did, but because of what they are.”
Recent polling data shows that a majority of Nebraskans, 54%,support some form of legal recognition for same-sex couples, with 32% saying they support marriage and an additional 22% saying they support civil unions.