A federal judge is being asked to immediately allow same-sex couples to get married in Nebraska and to have their marriages recognized here as a legal challenge to the state's gay marriage ban continues to move through the courts.

The ACLU of Nebraska requested the injunction on behalf of seven couples named in a lawsuit challenging the ban in U.S. District Court in Omaha.

The injunction would effectively stop the state from enforcing the ban until the courts make a final decision.

The motion is almost certain to be challenged by the state Attorney General's Office. Attorney General Jon Bruning and Attorney General-elect Doug Peterson have both said they will defend the ban, but a spokeswoman for Bruning's office declined to comment Tuesday.

"We are seeking a preliminary injunction because the couples in our case just cannot wait any longer," said Amy Miller, legal director for the state ACLU. "Some of the plaintiffs have difficult times ahead, and they need the safety and security that only marriage can provide. We hope the court will act swiftly so our clients and their families can prepare for their futures."

Those plaintiffs include Susan and Sally Waters, who are legally married in California. The state of Nebraska doesn't recognize their marriage because of the ban, which voters added to the state Constitution in 2001.

Sally Waters, 58, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and the state's ban means her wife is likely to have a higher tax burden after Sally's death than she would otherwise.

Miller had indicated earlier that the plaintiffs would seek immediate relief.

In the motion for the injunction signed by Angela Dunne of Omaha, another attorney for the plaintiffs, they argue that the ban is likely to be stricken by the courts and that without the injunction, the ban will cause the plaintiffs irreparable harm. 

The lawyers also submitted personal statements about the potential for harm from each of the 14 plaintiffs. 

By contrast, their attorneys argue "granting a preliminary injunction would cause no harm to the state and would further the public interest."

In addition to stopping enforcement of the ban, the motion includes two other requests: that the judge require the CEO of the state Department of Health and Human Services to change the marriage worksheet it provides to county clerks; and that the judge prevent the Lancaster County Clerk from denying marriage licenses to otherwise eligible same-sex couples.

Those changes would allow Bil Roby and Greg Tubach of Lincoln, the only two plaintiffs who aren't legally married in other states, to get married here, said Tyler Richard, spokesman for ACLU Nebraska.

The case is in the hands of U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Bataillon, who struck down the gay marriage ban after an earlier challenge by the ACLU of Nebraska and other legal partners. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later overturned Bataillon's decision.

The issue of state bans on same-sex marriage is expected to ultimately end up in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7234 or zpluhacek@journalstar.com. On Twitter @zachami.

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Assistant city editor

Zach Pluhacek is an assistant city editor.

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