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Religious groups want Nebraska's gay marriage ban kept on the books

Religious groups want Nebraska's gay marriage ban kept on the books

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Religious groups aren't giving up the fight to keep Nebraska's same-sex marriage ban on the books.

On Wednesday, Nebraska Family Alliance and the Nebraska Catholic Conference both came out opposed to measures that would update language in state law to reflect last year's U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down bans on gay marriage.

"Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of human person and marriage remain unchanged and unchangeable," Greg Schleppenbach, executive director of the Catholic Conference, told members of the Legislature's Judiciary Committee.

The groups outright opposed a proposed constitutional amendment (LR389CA) by state Sen. Burke Harr of Omaha that would strike the wording of Nebraska's same-sex marriage ban from the state Constitution.

"I don't want this kind of hatred to remain on our books for 80 years afterward," Harr said.

The Family Alliance and Catholic Conference also voiced concerns about a measure (LB944) from Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen that would replace the words mother and father with the nongendered term "parent" in state statute.

And the alliance opposed a Hansen bill (LB943) to exchange "husband" and "wife" with "spouse" in the state's lawbooks.

Hansen and a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska argued those updates could help prevent patchwork litigation down the road.

"Statutes ought to reflect what the law actually is," ACLU lobbyist Spike Eickholt told committee members during the public hearing. "Why allow these things to be decided on a case-by-case, ad-hoc basis?"

Courtney Phillips, CEO of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, raised technical concerns.

Harr's proposed constitutional amendment — which would require a vote of the people — drew broader opposition despite Nebraska's existing ban being unenforceable.

Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, a committee member from Lincoln whose son is gay, criticized the religious groups for their opposition.

"For your groups to come in and continue to harbor on and hold onto the hatred and lack of respect and lack of compassion for my family and for many other families — I just cannot believe you are still doing this."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7234 or On Twitter @zachamiLJS.


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