Governor Pete Ricketts stands by his support of Nebraska’s definition of marriage, despite a federal judge’s ruling overturning it.
Attorney General Doug Peterson has appealed the ruling to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Federal judge Joseph Bataillon has struck down the state ban on same-sex marriage, though he made his ruling effective a week from today, giving the state time to appeal the decision.
Ricketts and Peterson held a joint news conference at the governor’s Capitol office today.
Ricketts said if the state definition of marriage is to be changed, it should be changed by the voters.
“And while I know this is a difficult issue for many families, including my own, I don’t believe that this is an issue that should be decided by the preferences of one judge; that this is an issue for the people of Nebraska and that I will work with the Attorney General to continue to uphold the constitution,” Ricketts told reporters.
The Attorney General’s office filed its appeal immediately after Bataillon issued his ruling, hoping for an outcome similar to 2006. That year, Bataillon issued a similar ruling against the constitutional amendment approved by Nebraska voters in 2000. The appellate court overturned Bataillon and let the law stand.
Peterson said he expects the United States Supreme Court to rule later this year on whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, a point the judge did not address.
“I think it’s important to note in Judge Batallion’s opinion, he chose not to make a decision as to whether or not marriage between a same-sex couple was a fundamental right and I think that’s the key legal issue,” Peterson stated.
Peterson said his office has asked the 8th Circuit to prevent the Bataillon ruling from going into effect until it decides the issue.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court will go a long way toward clarifying the issue this summer.
“Our position is that under good, appropriate constitutional analysis and good constitutional law for this issue it is to be decided by the states and for the states to decide it they need to go through the very process that we went through in this state back in 2000 where 70% of Nebraskans found that marriage should be constitutionally determined to be that just between a man and a woman,” Peterson said.
AUDIO: Gov. Peter Ricketts and Attorney General Doug Peterson react to ruling on Nebraska definition of marriage. [4 min.]