Common sense prevails in gay marriage ruling

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Perhaps nothing in our society is more important than marriage, and few issues have drawn more passion from the voters.

In virtually every state where they have had the chance to decide, voters have chosen overwhelmingly to reaffirm marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

It was no different in Nebraska, where nearly 70 percent of us voted for the Defense of Marriage Amendment in 2000.

But that amendment was overturned by U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon, who declared the amendment unconstitutional, saying it was too broad and deprived gays and lesbians of participation in the political process. It was challenged by the New York-based Lambda and the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Project.

Those groups say Nebraska's is one of the most extreme gay marriage bans in the United States, since it prevents same-sex couples who work for the state or University of Nebraska system, for example from sharing health insurance or other benefits.

Bataillon also said it also interfered with the rights of foster parents, adopted children and people in a host of other living arrangements.

When the judge was overturned by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday, it was hailed by Attorney General Jon Bruning as affirming "Nebraskans right to modify their Constitution as they see fit." He had argued that the ban did not violate anyone's freedom of expression or association, or to take part in the political process.

Pro-family group FamilyFirst said the ruling "solidly defends the right of states to protect the status of marriage as being only between a man and a woman."

Sen. Chuck Hagel said "today's ruling should not come as a surprise. Every other ruling by state appeals courts or federal courts on this issue has upheld the authority of states to define their own definition of marriage."

Writing for the appeals court, Chief Judge James Loken said the amendment serves the purpose of "steering heterosexual procreation into marriage ..."

And, he wrote, "in a multi-tiered democracy, it is inevitable that interest groups will strive to make it more difficult for competing interest groups to achieve contrary legislative objectives."

Bruning said he stood ready to defend the amendment again if it is appealed, as opponents have indicated they may.

But at least for the time being, common sense has prevailed.

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