Constitutional amendment proposed to repeal marriage definition

Removal of a provision in the state constitution would be placed on the ballot for voter consideration under a proposal heard by the Judiciary Committee Jan. 29.

Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks
Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks

Currently, the constitution states that only marriage between a man and a woman shall be valid and recognized in Nebraska. If passed by the Legislature, LR20CA, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, would place a proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2022 general election ballot to remove that provision.

Article I, section 29 of the state constitution was rendered obsolete with the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, Pansing Brooks said, which legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country.

“It’s become clear that we have reached something close to a national consensus of public opinion on this issue,” she said. “In light of this, the discriminatory language in our constitution banning marriage equality, as well as civil unions and domestic partnerships, feels archaic and even embarrassing.”

Supporting the proposal was Sara Rips, on behalf of the ACLU of Nebraska. She said it would bring the state constitution in line with the law of the land.

“Just like the last vestiges of slavery that haunted our constitution until last November, section 29 is an outdated relic that reflects poorly on our state,” Rips said. “Empowering our voters to remove this harmful constitutional [language] sends a message to the entire nation that Nebraska is a welcoming, hospitable place for all.”

Marion Miner, representing the Nebraska Catholic Conference, spoke in opposition. The essential purpose of marriage is to attach mothers and fathers to their children and to one another, he said.

“Section 29 may be unenforceable as a practical matter as long as Obergefell remains authoritative, but its repeal would signal that Nebraska has abandoned the understanding of marriage as the singular institution for upholding the most basic natural right of children, after the right to life itself,” Miner said.

The committee took no immediate action on LR20CA.

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