Oral Arguments Held in Federal Appeals Court: ACLU and Lambda Legal Urge Court to Uphold Prior Ruling Striking Down Extreme Antigay Nebraska Law Banning All Protections for Same-Sex Couples

February 13, 2006 12:00 am

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ST. LOUIS – In oral arguments today at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the

Eighth Circuit, the America Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal urged the

court to uphold a lower court ruling which struck down the extreme antigay

family law in Nebraska banning all protections for the relationships of same-sex


“This is the most extreme antigay family law in the nation and it, in effect,

put a sign on the door of the Nebraska legislature saying ‘”Same-Sex Couples Not

Allowed,’” said David Buckel, Senior Counsel at Lambda Legal. “Judge Bataillon

got it right because he put democracy back in action, giving gay Nebraskans a

level playing field on which to advocate for legal protections for their


In May 2005, Federal District Judge Joseph F. Bataillon struck down

Nebraska’s antigay constitutional amendment in response to a legal challenge

brought by Lambda Legal and the ACLU on behalf of ACLU Nebraska and two

statewide LGBT lobbying and education organizations-Citizens for Equal

Protection (CFEP) and Nebraska Advocates for Justice and Equality (NAJE). The

court ruled that the state constitutional amendment was far reaching and it

barred lesbian and gay people from participating in the democratic process in

violation of the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection guarantee and prohibition

on Bill of Attainder. The decision does not mean that the state has to allow

same-sex couples to marry, or to form civil unions or domestic partnerships, but

instead allows same-sex couples to lobby their legislators for protections for

their relationships.

“As we stressed to the court today, states can’t turn lesbian and gay people

into political outcasts,” said Tamara Lange, a senior staff attorney with the

ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project who argued before the court today. “Yet

Nebraska enacted a law that doesn’t even allow gay people to lobby for

protections for their relationships. The lower court understood this when it

struck down this law. We hope the Court of Appeals agrees.”

In addition to banning same-sex couples from marriage, the law, which was

passed in November 2000, explicitly barred any legal recognition of a same-sex

couple in a “civil union, domestic partnership, or other similar same-sex


“It is important that the court affirm striking down this law. Nebraska

same-sex families need protection and we need to be able to work with the

Unicameral to provide those protections,” said Shelley Kiel of NAJE.

Amy Miller, Litigation Director of ACLU Nebraska added, “Lesbian and gay

Nebraskans understand that getting rid of this law won’t help their families

immediately. But it will at least allow them to begin talking to lawmakers about

their families and how they are harmed when treated like legal


The attorneys who are litigating the case include: Robert Bartle of Bartle

& Geier in Lincoln, Nebraska; David Buckel and Brian Chase of Lambda Legal;

Tamara Lange, Sharon McGowan and James Esseks of the Lesbian & Gay Rights

Project of the ACLU and Amy Miller of ACLU Nebraska.

The case is Citizens for Equal Protection, Inc., et al v. Attorney General

Jon Bruning, et al, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit,

case number 05-2604. Legal documents are available at www­.aclu.org/caseprofiles and www­.lambdalegal.org.

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