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Did Nebraska Lawmakers Just Accidentally Recognize Gay Marriage?

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A debate over granting military spouses the right to carry concealed handguns in Nebraska may have just led state lawmakers to inadvertently acknowledge same-sex marriage. Omaha.com reports that the state legislature was considering a bill that would allows spouses of military service-members to apply for a concealed gun permit without having to wait 180 days to establish residency. But how would marriage be defined? And would same-sex couples married out of state be covered and eligible to apply for gun permits under this new legislation?

PaulSen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus (right) proposed an amendment that would clarify the issue by extending the gun rights in question to any individuals currently receiving federal benefits of a military spouse. That definition includes same-sex couples.

Via Omaha.com:

“Is not the Second Amendment sex blind? Color blind?” Schumacher said. “What great evil would come from saying a partner of somebody in the military … is entitled to exercise their Second Amendment rights to carry a concealed weapon in this state?”

After the amendment was adopted by a vote of 38-0, it was Sen. John Murante of Gretna, who abstained on the bill, gave the sound bite that would sum up the possible implications of Schumacher's amendment, saying “I think we just recognized gay marriage. We are now using the federal government’s standard for who receives marriage benefits.” In other words, Nebraska is now using a definition of marriage to determine distribution of benefits that includes a recognition of same-sex marriages.

However, not all lawmakers were as confident that the new legislation would conflict with Nebraska's ban on same-sex marriage:

Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins, who sponsored the measure, said he does not think the amendment language will open up the state’s marriage law to attack. The state constitution definitively says gay marriage is not recognized within Nebraska’s borders, he added. [...]

Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, a strong supporter of allowing Nebraska same-sex couples to marry, voted against the bill because he opposes pro-gun legislation. But he voted for the Schumacher amendment.

Afterward, Chambers, who holds a law degree, declined to give his legal opinion of the legislation that advanced to the second of three rounds of debate.

“The bill says what it says and does what it does,” he said.


Fire Completely Destroys Lincoln, Nebraska's Largest Gay Nightclub: VIDEO

Karma

Lincoln, Nebraska's largest gay nightclub Karma has been destroyed after a large fire erupted inside the building Saturday night. 

The Lincoln Journal Star reports:

The fire started at the club at 226 S. Ninth St. around 7:15 p.m. Saturday.

Club occupants were being evacuated from the building by 7:30 p.m., when flames were seen coming from the building.

Around 8:15 p.m., firefighters began to take defensive positions around the perimeter of the club and at 8:25 they began to form a collapse zone around the structure.

Within minutes, the roof collapsed and heavy smoke came pouring out.

10/11 News adds:

Karma1Lincoln Fire Battalion Chief Leo Benes said the business is at a total loss. Fire crews were on the scene throughout the night to control any hot spots that might appear.

Benes said fire investigators will come Sunday morning. Benes also mentioned that crews have not battled a fire this large in quite some time. 

Performers and patrons reportedly gathered across the street as the fire blazed Saturday night, with many hugging and wiping away tears. 

No word yet on how the fire began and no injuries have been reported.

Watch a news report on the story, AFTER THE JUMP...

[h/t Aksarbent]

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North Dakota Senate Reconsiders Bill Banning Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

North Dakota's Senate is again considering a nondiscrimination bill that would protect LGBTQ people from being discriminated in the workplace on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Nebraska currently has an abysmal record on LGBT civil rights according to the Human Rights Campaign’s 2014 State Equality Index report. The Dickinson Press reports:

6a00d8341c730253ef01b8d0c4c1ca970c-800wiSen. Carolyn Nelson, D-Fargo, is the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 2279, which is similar to bills brought forward in 2009 and 2011 that failed to pass.

“The reason I think that this bill is important is that I think that the young people are looking at not only getting a good job but moving to communities that are accepting,” Nelson said. “Despite the fact that Fargo and Grand Forks are pretty liberal and above board, there are a lot of places in North Dakota that are not yet there.”

The nondiscrimination bill could have an impact on Nebraska's job market and the type of companies and talent the state will be able to lure:

JboscheeRep. Josh Boschee, D-Fargo, a co-sponsor of the bill, said one way supporters of the bill are appealing to the Legislature’s conservative majority is pointing to the positive effect it will have on workforce development and attracting businesses to the state.

“We continue to need to fill jobs in the state,” Boschee said. “As someone who has done a job search and looked throughout the country and is gay, the first thing I do is look at the laws on the books -- what are the protections afforded to me at my place of employment.”

Should the bill pass, the Department of Labor would be empowered to investigate claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, an authority it does not currently have.

Nebraska's current non-discrimination laws only include protections for "race, religion, sex, national origin, age and physical or mental disabilities."

The bill is thought to have bipartisan support at this time. Here's to hoping it passes. 


Challenge To Nebraska's Same-Sex Marriage Ban Moves Forward As Judge Denies Stay of Lawsuit

Joseph_F._Bataillon_District_JudgeA federal judge has denied Nebraska's request to stay a lawsuit brought against it by seven same-sex couples seeking to overturn the Cornhusker State's ban on same-sex marriage. Senior U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Bataillon found that the U.S. Supreme Court's pending review of four same-sex marriage cases does not provide sufficient grounds for Nebraska to delay the lower court's consideration of a similar question. The Lincoln Journal Star reports:

The Nebraska Attorney General's office argued for a stay, saying that even if Bataillon granted the couples' request to allow same-sex marriages, the state would appeal the decision to the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals and would seek a stay there.

But Bataillon said that was "at least premature, if not irrelevant" to whether he grants a stay. And he pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court has denied stays in cases in circuits where same-sex marriage bans have been struck down.

In this case, the judge said the parties would benefit from a full development of the record, whatever his decision on the motion.

"Whatever public interest the state has is insufficient in light of the plaintiffs' showing of serious, irreparable and immediate harm," Bataillon wrote.

Attorneys for the couples argued that they urgently need the protections of marriage and "would suffer serious and irreparable harms should the court stay the proceedings until the Supreme Court issues its opinion."

One of the plaintiffs, Sally Waters, has cancer and her children will be denied critical financial protections if she dies before the issue is resolved. Another, Chrystal Von Kampen, a disabled Iraq War veteran, will be denied financial protections married couples are afforded until her marriage in another state is recognized.

Bataillon has set a hearing for February 19th.


Crowd Assembles In Support Of LGBT Rights Bill At Nebraska State Capitol: VIDEO

Morfeld

Nebraskan senators have introduced bills regarding equal employment, second parent adoption, foster parent legislation, and discrimination protections for LGBT individuals, furthering their rights within the state. On Wednesday, a large crowd gathered at the state capitol to show their support for these advancements, with State Senators Adam Morfeld, Sara Howard, and Jeremy Nordquist speaking, all of whom have introduced pro-LGBT bills for the state.

Said Morfeld,

We will no longer wait as rights that are supposedly guaranteed to all, but then denied in our workplace and our courts for some. If people don't think that it doesn't happen, they're wrong.

Watch a NBC Nebraska report on the press conference, AFTER THE JUMP...

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ACLU Files Motion To Bar Transgender Woman And Inmate Fiancé From Lawsuit Challenging Nebraska's Marriage Ban

6a00d8341c730253ef01bb07cdbc47970d-800wiThe ACLU of Nebraska has filed a motion with a judge currently considering a challenge to the state's ban on same-sex marriage, asking the judge to bar a transgender woman and her inmate fiance from joining the lawsuit, stating that, should they joing the suit, they "would delay and complicate the case." The AP reports:

Untitled-1Inmate Harold B. Wilson and Gracy Sedlak [pictured right], formerly John Jirovsky, have not demonstrated or alleged that the seven Nebraska couples already in the suit do not adequately represent the couple's interests, the ACLU said in a motion Monday [...]

The judge has yet to rule.

Wilson and Sedlak earlier this month submitted their motion to intervene in the federal lawsuit, which was filed in November, the Lincoln Journal Star reported. Wilson and Sedlak have said they've twice been denied a marriage license by Lancaster County and have been unsuccessful in their own attempts to challenge the Nebraska law.

Wilson, 59, is serving 56 to 170 years in the Lincoln Correctional Center for attempted murder, kidnapping and sexual assault in Dawson County. Sedlak, 29, was released from prison in 2011 and lives in Lincoln.


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