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Then There Were 12: Nebraska Ordered to End Same-Sex Marriage Ban

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What a difference a couple of years makes.

A federal judge has struck down Nebraska’s ban on same-sex marriage, calling it an “unabashedly gender-specific infringement of the equal rights of its citizens.”

U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon’s decision Monday means that same-sex marriage is now against the law in fewer than one in four states.

Nebraska state officials immediately appealed the ruling to the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

Bataillon denied a state request to stay his decision. And so, beginning Monday the state must “treat same-sex couples the same as different sex couples” when it comes to marriage rights, the federal injunction reads.

As the dominoes fall in favor of same-sex marriages, the question now seems to be which state will be the last?

The number of states offering same-sex marriages has surged since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in 2013 that invalidated part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

States like Illinois, Hawaii, Minnesota and New York joined the fold voluntarily, while others — most recently Nebraska and Alabama — were ordered by state or federal judges to offer and recognize the unions.

The case involving Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee is expected to be decided sometime in June by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Here’s the situation in the 12 states that currently ban same-sex marriages:

Arkansas

The state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage, passed in 2004, was struck down twice last year — once by a state court judge and again by a U.S. District Court judge. Local officials issued some 400 marriage licenses following the state court decision, but the state Supreme Court blocked the issuance of more licenses pending its review of the case. A decision could come soon.

Georgia

Georgia is one of just two states with no legislative action or pending legal decisions whatsoever on same-sex marriage. The other is North Dakota. However, lawsuits are pending to overturn the state’s 2004 ban.

Louisiana

The state’s ban is being challenged in state court, where a judge last year ruled the law is unconstitutional, and in federal court, where a U.S. District Court judge took the rare step, for a federal judge, of backing such a ban. The ban remains in place pending Louisiana’s appeal of the state court ruling. On the federal level, a ruling is pending out of the U.S Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which heard arguments in the case in January.

Kentucky

Last year, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the state’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriages had no “legitimate purpose.” The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit later overturned the ruling, reinstating gay marriage bans in Kentucky and four other states. The Kentucky ban is part of the U.S. Supreme Court case scheduled for arguments in April and a decision by June.

Michigan

A U.S. District Court judge ruled last year that the state’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional, resulting in the issuance of more than 300 marriage licenses. That ended when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit granted a stay. The court later reinstated Michigan’s ban in the same ruling that reinstated Kentucky’s ban. Its fate will be decided by the Supreme Court decision due by June.

Missouri

A state court judge ruled in November that Missouri’s 2004 constitutional ban on gay marriage was illegal. Attorney General Chris Koster appealed the ruling to the state Supreme Court. But that court has indicated that it will not rule on the case until after the U.S. Supreme Court decision. Just a few days after that state court ruling, a U.S. District Court judge struck down the state’s marriage ban, but that decision has been stayed pending appeals. While the state ban is in effect, officials in the St. Louis area have issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Mississippi

A U.S. District Court judge granted an injunction last year against the state’s same-sex marriage ban, describing it as unconstitutional. The judge, however, postponed his ruling from going into effect to give the state time to appeal. A federal appeals court heard arguments in the case in January. In the meantime, the same-sex marriage ban is still in effect.

North Dakota

Same-sex couples are challenging the state’s ban in U.S. District Court, but a federal judge issued a ruling on January 20 delaying the proceedings until after the U.S. Supreme Court rules.

South Dakota

U.S. District Court Judge Karen Schreier struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban in January, but blocked enforcement pending an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Texas

The state’s ban was struck down in January 2014 by a federal judge who said it serves “no legitimate governmental purpose.” But, as in many other states, enforcement was delayed pending appeals. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit heard the case last month and a ruling is pending.

Ohio

A federal appeals court judge upheld a ban last year on same-sex marriages in the state. That decision is part of the U.S. Supreme Court case expected to be finalized this summer.

Tennessee

In November 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld the state’s ban. That decision also will be part of the U.S. Supreme Court case.

3 comments

  • John Smith

    I imagine the Roberts Court will write out the USSC-approved language that states must use in order to continue discriminating. Maybe they’ll even offer a constitutional amendment to allow it, so the states can avoid wasting time getting the language right.

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