In August, Lancaster County District Judge Stephanie Stacy dismissed their divorce case, writing in her order, “A finding that the marriage is irretrievably broken — by its very nature — cannot be made without recognizing the marriage itself, and it stretches logic and common sense to conclude otherwise.”
Nebraska constitutionally banned same sex marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships in 2000 in one of the most draconian exclusions in the USA.
Now, uber-homophobic Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, currently campaigning for a promotion to governor after Cornhusker voters rejected his Senate bid, has weighed in on the case:
Bruning’s office argued the constitutionality of Nebraska’s same-sex marriage law shouldn’t be considered and said divorce isn’t a right.
“Bonnie cites no authority for the proposition that divorce is a fundamental right or a privilege and immunity guaranteed by the federal constitution. This is because there is no authority for such a proposition,” the Attorney General’s Office wrote.
ACLU and Legal Aid argued divorce could be handled without delving into the constitutionality of Nebraska’s prohibition of same-sex marriage, and that not letting courts hear these cases violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
For Margie and Bonnie Nichols, the inability to get divorced raises a number of potential problems and liabilities related to filing federal taxes, being responsible for each other’s debt, Social Security income and other retirement benefits. Mikolajczyk [of Omaha-based Domina Law Group] said an annulment doesn’t offer the same legal protections as a divorce, nor does it address issues of alimony or property division.
The women cannot remarry, even to someone of the opposite sex. Doing so without a divorce would run afoul of bigamy laws, which come with criminal penalties.
“They want to terminate this contract just as anyone else in our state has the right to dissolve their marriage,” Mikolajczyk said. “They both would like the opportunity to move on with their lives, and you can’t really do that if other states and the federal government perceive them as still married.”
|Nebraska AG Jon Bruning pictured|
with Eames and Barcelona chairs
In 2011, Jon Bruning had Nebraska State Senator Mike Gloor introduce legislation punishing HIV+ Nebraskans who sneezed in the direction of a cop with up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine — despite the fact that the CDC has repeatedly said that saliva has never been shown to transmit HIV.
In 2012, after state Senator Beau McCoy's bill to kill looming gay rights ordinances in Omaha and Lincoln died in committee, Bruning issued an opinion that LGBT rights ordinances were illegal anyway despite contrary opinions by city attorneys in both Lincoln and Omaha.
Nebraska's action leaves just five states in which marriage equality lawsuits have not been challenged recently.