Supporters of banning gay marriage won two major court rulings Friday, with a federal appeals court reinstating Nebraska’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage and the Tennessee Supreme Court ruling that voters should have a say on the issue.
Last week, the highest courts in two others states also dealt gay rights advocates setbacks. The New York court rejected a bid by same-sex couples to win marriage rights, and the Georgia court reinstated a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage there.
In the Nebraska case, U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon had ruled that the ban was too broad and deprived gays and lesbians of participation in the political process, among other things.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, saying in its ruling Friday that the amendment “and other laws limiting the state-recognized institution of marriage to heterosexual couples are rationally related to legitimate state interests and therefore do not violate the Constitution of the United States.”
Seventy percent of Nebraska voters approved the ban in 2000.
Attorney General Jon Bruning had argued earlier for the ban should to be restored, saying it didn’t violate anyone’s freedom of expression or association.
Opponents of the ban “are free to gather, express themselves, lobby, and generally participate in the political process however they see fit,” Bruning said. “Plaintiffs are free to petition state senators to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot. Plaintiffs are similarly free to begin an initiative process to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, just as supporters ... did.”
The lawsuit challenging the ban was filed by New York-based Lambda and the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Project. Officials there could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Nebraska amendment went farther than similar bans in many states in that it also barred same-sex couples from many legal protections afforded heterosexual couples. For example the partners of gays and lesbians who work for the state are not entitled to share their health insurance and other benefits.