By Lawrence Morahan
WASHINGTON (BP)–Learning from the experience of other states grappling with the issue of legal recognition of homosexual unions, family groups in Nebraska have crafted a proposed amendment to the state constitution that seeks not only to ban homosexual marriage but declares same-sex domestic partnerships invalid as well.
According to a variety of polls, voters are expected to support the measure by a comfortable majority on election day.
“Nebraska will be the first, and we will not be the last” to pass such legislation, Guyla Mills, chairperson for the Defense of Marriage Amendment Committee and an author of the initiative, told the Internet news site CNSNews.com.
While the federal government and 33 states have adopted laws or amendments limiting marriage to an institution between one man and one woman, Nebraska’s proposed amendment goes a step further, adding that a civil union or domestic partnership will not be recognized in the state.
“Only a marriage between a man and a woman shall be valid or recognized in Nebraska,” Initiative 416 reads. “The uniting of two persons of the same sex in a civil union, domestic partnership or other similar same-sex relationship shall not be valid or recognized in Nebraska.”
Recent polls show that the measure has a 60 percent chance of passing, despite strong opposition by homosexual rights advocates and their allies. Proponents have noted that support for the initiative has grown dramatically since Vermont passed a law in April granting most of the rights and privileges of marriage to homosexual couples.
In a six-week period between the end of May and July 7, family groups in Nebraska gathered almost 160,000 signatures, 50,000 more than necessary to get the measure on the ballot. In 1997, the same groups collected only 15,000 signatures for a proposal that defended traditional marriage but did not mention domestic partnerships.
Both U.S. Senate candidates — Democrat Ben Nelson, a former governor, and Republican Don Stenberg, the attorney general — support the measure. Gov. Mike Johanns also supports the initiative.
Supporters also say the measure has a good chance of withstanding an inevitable court challenge.
“Nebraska is the only unicameral state in the nation, which is key, because our Supreme Court has determined that, in Nebraska, the second house of government is the petition process,” Mills said. This factor would make an affirmative vote very hard to overturn, she added.
“When the opposition realized they were not going to be able to redefine marriage, or that America wasn’t ready to redefine marriage by allowing homosexual unions, they thought they’d just call it another name — civil unions,” Mills said.
Although no other state has yet followed Vermont’s lead — and Vermont’s law says the civil union is valid only in that state — legal analysts on both sides of the debate say it is only a matter of time before homosexual couples use civil union certificates obtained in Vermont to sue their home state to recognize their validity. About 75 percent of civil unions have gone to out-of-staters since the Vermont law went into effect on July 1.
The debate over civil unions in Vermont also is expected to bring record numbers of voters to the polls Nov. 7. Republicans believe the civil unions issue gives them their best chance in almost a decade of unseating Democratic Gov. Howard Dean, who supported civil unions, and of winning a majority in the legislature in the Green Mountain State.
Morahan is a senior writer for CNSNews.com. Used by permission.
Used with permission.