Two lesbians from Nebraska who were legally married in Iowa five years ago are now wanting a divorce, launching a legal battle now before the Nebraska Supreme Court. While same-sex marriages are legal under Iowa’s constitution, they’re not in Nebraska, which also doesn’t recognize unions from other states.
Attorney Megan Mikolajczyk argues Nebraska needs to recognize the legally binding contract from Iowa. Mikolajczyk says, “The appellant, a Nebraska resident, seeks the recognition of the United States Constitution which requires all states to recognize the valid acts, records and proceedings of our sibling states in the union.” She says the Nebraska Supreme Court should grant the divorce, even though Nebraska doesn’t acknowledge same-sex marriage.
Nebraska Assistant Attorney General James Smith argued against that, saying Nebraska voters overwhelmingly approved the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriages in 2000 and granting a divorce would go against voters’ wishes. Smith says, “Nebraska’s constitution defines and recognizes under our law what constitutes marriage.” Seventy-percent of Nebraska voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2000 defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. The attorney general’s office argues it doesn’t make sense for Nebraska to grant a divorce when the same-sex marriage isn’t legal here.
Mikolajczyk argued the state of Nebraska should be obligated to recognize the couple’s marriage. “The state of Iowa issued the appellant a valid marriage license,” she says. “This is a state act. A marriage ceremony was performed in Iowa with the proper officiant which is a state proceeding.”
Smith argued that Nebraska’s voters have made their minds clear on the subject of same-sex marriage, based on the vote in 2000. Smith says, “The appellant requests this court to, in effect, disenfranchise 70% of Nebraska’s voters by having this court adopt a construction of the United States Constitution which has not been recognized by the United States Supreme Court itself.”
The case involves Bonnie Nichols of Raymond, Nebraska, who married her long-time partner Margie in 2009, the year same-sex marriages started in Iowa following an Iowa Supreme Court case that struck down a law which defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Bonnie Nichols filed for divorce last year, but a Lancaster County, Nebraska, judge ruled a divorce couldn’t be given if the marriage couldn’t be recognized in the first place.
The Nebraska Supreme Court heard arguments in the case on Wednesday. A ruling is expected at a later date.
Thanks to Chris Whitney, KLIN, Lincoln