By MARGERY A. BECK
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Gay couples in Nebraska will now have their marriages legally recognized in the state that has had one of the most restrictive same-sex union bans in the country, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Friday that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States.
Bil Roby and Greg Tubach, who have been together for 29 years and live in Lincoln, are among couples who celebrated the decision. They are among seven same-sex couples who sued last year to try to force the state to recognize their marriages, challenging the constitutionality of Nebraska’s ban, approved by 70 percent of voters in 2000. In addition to prohibiting gay marriage, it also forbid civil unions and outlawed domestic partnerships.
“I’m quietly stunned,” Tubach said Friday following the announcement of the decision. “I did cry in the kitchen when I was texting a good friend of mine about it.”
The tears were for those people, like his uncle who had a long-term relationship with another man, who missed the historic ruling.
“It makes this bittersweet for me,” he said, his voice cracking. “He was a generation before me, and he’s not alive to celebrate this.”
Roby and Tubach plan to apply for a marriage license in Lancaster County as soon as possible.
“We already have the paperwork filled out,” Tubach said. “We’re just waiting on word that the city-county officials have everything lined up before we head over there.”
Most county clerks in Nebraska appear set to act in the wake of the high court’s ruling.
Douglas County Clerk Thomas Cavanaugh, who oversees the issuance of marriage licenses for Nebraska’s most populous county, which includes Omaha, said he ordered changes to the county’s marriage license applications earlier this year when a federal judge struck down Nebraska’s gay marriage ban as unconstitutional. Days later, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed Nebraska’s ban to stay in place while it considered the state’s appeal and similar appeals in several other states.
The Douglas County applications - as well as applications in Nebraska’s other large counties - changed language from ``bride’’ and ``groom’’ to “applicant 1” and “applicant 2.”
He and many other county clerks don’t expect any lag time between a decision and the issuance of licenses to gay couples.
A few county clerks have expressed religious objections to issuing marriage licenses to gay couples but have said they would allow other staffers without such objections to handle those requests.