WASHINGTON - As the perfect example of how trying to rationalize discrimination loses all sense of reason, the Nebraska Senate yesterday voted 38-0 in favor of an amendment that would recognize same-sex spouses, but only if they are applying for a gun permit and if they are married to someone in the military. With a state ban on marriage equality currently in place, the amendment was introduced to a bill that would waive residency requirements for the spouses of service members.
“This is the perfect example of how irrational discrimination against same-sex couples continues to be,” said Stephen Peters, a Marine veteran, same-sex spouse of an active duty Marine, and spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign. “It’s perplexing that Nebraska lawmakers would only want to recognize a same-sex military spouse if they are trying to buy a gun. All service members and their spouses sacrifice a tremendous amount for our nation, and those who happen to be of the same-sex deserve the same protections in every state. This would not even be an issue if Nebraska lawmakers would acknowledge that loving and committed same-sex couples deserve the same rights and responsibilities that come with marriage.”
The amendment was introduced by Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus and as reported by the Omaha World Herald “would apply to anyone receiving the federal benefits of a military spouse.” The Department of Defense began recognizing the same-sex spouses of service members following the demise of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act in the Windsor case. Legally married same-sex couples now have access to most federal marriage benefits, but in states like Nebraska that do not recognize their marriage, they lack access to important state benefits.
Same-sex military spouses stationed in non-marriage equality states often face unfair and unjust challenges due to a lack of recognition of their legal marriages by the state, including with state taxes, parental and adoption rights, access to in-state tuition, and other areas.
In 2014, HRC commissioned a survey of LGBT people in Nebraska. The assessment shows LGBT people are contributing members of their communities, but face daunting amounts of discrimination. Key findings from the survey show 57 percent of respondents have called the state home for more than 20 years, more than half are in committed relationships, and 59 percent volunteer in their respective communities. However, the survey also found 41 percent have experienced harassment at work, more than one in five have experienced employment discrimination and one-third of LGBT respondents in rural areas have experienced harassment in school on a weekly basis. The survey also discovered 22 percent of respondents have experienced harassment at their place of worship and 57 percent have experienced harassment on the street.
HRC Nebraska is working to pass enduring legal protections for LGBT people in housing, employment and public accommodations; improve the lived experience of LGBT people in workplaces and faith communities; prevent harassment and violence against LGBT people; reduce the stigma of HIV/AIDS; and support LGBT youth in schools.