Court Reinstates Neb. Gay Marriage Ban

The Associated Press
Friday, July 14, 2006; 7:53 PM

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Courts handed victories to gay-marriage opponents in two states Friday, reinstating Nebraska's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage and throwing out an attempt to keep a proposed ban off the ballot in Tennessee.

In the Nebraska case, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a judge's ruling last year that the ban was too broad and deprived gays and lesbians of participation in the political process, among other things.

Seventy percent of voters had approved the ban as a constitutional amendment in 2000.

It went further than similar bans in many states in that it also barred same-sex couples from many legal protections afforded to 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.

New York-based Lambda and the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Project sued, arguing it violated gay rights.

The court, however, ruled that 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."

In Tennessee, the state Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union that contended the state failed to meet its own notification requirements for a ballot measure asking voters to ban gay marriage. The high court ruled unanimously Friday that the ACLU didn't have standing to file the suit.

To have standing, plaintiffs must prove the timing of notification _ whether it was done properly or not _ somehow caused them injury, said James F. Blumstein, Vanderbilt University professor of constitutional law.

"Courts do not hear abstract questions brought by people who do not have a particularized stake in the issue," he said.

Byron Babione, Alliance Defense Fund senior counsel who represented lawmakers hoping to keep the amendment on the ballot, said he believed the court's decision showed that no one would be able to prove they were injured by the timing of the notification.

Tennessee already has a law banning gay marriage, but lawmakers who supported the proposed amendment said they wanted a backup in case the law was overturned.

Similar steps have been taken in many of the other 44 states that have specifically barred same-sex marriage through statute or constitutional amendment.

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