The United States Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that a state does not have the right to ban gay marriage. This, in essence, means that Nebraska’s ban on gay marriage, passed in 2000, no longer is the law. The holding of the case, Obergefell et al. v. Hodges, Director, Ohio Department of Health, Et Al., 576 U. S. ____ (2015) “requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out of state.”
Central to the decision, the Supreme Court focused on the Fourteenth Amendment due process clause and equal protection clause of the United States Constitution. Citing a long history of precedent protecting the right to marry, the Court proceeded to elaborate with four reasons on why the protection extends to same sex couples. First, the Court noted the right of personal choice is central and inherent to marriage. Second, the right to marry supports the union between two people and is therefore of the utmost importance. Third, marriage provides protection and safety for families, including children. Fourth, marriage is so set in the nations’ traditions that it must be recognized. The Court found that the states supporting the gay marriage bans were unable to put forth a compelling reason to withhold a same sex couple’s right to marry.
In Nebraska, exactly when and how this will impact the ability for same sex individuals to marry remains unclear. County clerks have stated they will be seeking guidance from the Nebraska attorney general, as the specific case that will change the Nebraska law is still pending in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. However, in the short term, this may not necessarily stop county clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same sex individuals in Nebraska. Regardless of whether issuance of same sex marriage licenses begin within hours or weeks, it is now clear that banning same sex marriage is unconstitutional as determined by the Court.
© 2015 Houghton Vandenack Williams
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