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Senators advance proposal to let Nebraskans decide on removing same-sex marriage ban

Senators advance proposal to let Nebraskans decide on removing same-sex marriage ban

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts delivers his 2021 State of the State address to the Legislature.

LINCOLN — State lawmakers took an initial step Thursday toward removing Nebraska’s unenforceable ban on same-sex marriage.

On a 5-2 vote, the Judiciary Committee of the Nebraska Legislature advanced a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow voters to decide whether to remove the ban, which Nebraskans enshrined in the state Constitution in 2000 by a 70% to 30% vote.

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered the ban unenforceable, ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that such prohibitions violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

State Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln, who introduced Legislative Resolution 20CA earlier this year, has said that opinions have changed and that the measure would allow Nebraskans to show that.

The proposed constitutional amendment, if advanced by the full Legislature, would go before voters in 2022.

Public opinion has shifted dramatically toward same-sex marriage. Last year, a Gallup poll showed that two-thirds of Americans now approve of gay marriage. That compares with 27% acceptance in 1996.

Two groups, the Nebraska Catholic Conference and the Nebraska Family Alliance, testified in opposition to LR 20CA during a public hearing on Jan. 29.

Voting to advance LR 20CA from committee, besides Pansing Brooks, were State Sens. Steve Lathrop and Terrell McKinney of Omaha, Adam Morfeld of Lincoln, and Wendy DeBoer of Bennington. Voting against advancement were Sens. Suzanne Geist of Lincoln and Tom Brandt of Plymouth. Sen. Julie Slama of Peru was absent when the vote was taken.

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Reporter - Regional/state issues

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues. He specializes in tax and transportation issues, following the governor and the state prison system. Follow him on Twitter @PaulHammelOWH. Phone: 402-473-9584.

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