Nebraska Gay Marriage Ban Overturned

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A federal judge has blocked Nebraska's gay marriage ban, but the decision will not take effect until March 9.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon on Monday ordered the state to not enforce its ban.

Seven same-sex couples filed a lawsuit last year challenging the state's voter-backed ban. Last week, Bataillon heard arguments for and against a motion for an injunction to block enforcement of the ban while the lawsuit is pending.

The Nebraska Attorney General's office has said it will appeal any decision blocking or overturning the voter-approved ban on gay marriage.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Jan. 17 that it would decide whether same-sex couples have a right to marry under the Constitution. A decision is expected by late June.

Gov. Pete Ricketts is denouncing the federal judge's decision to strike down Nebraska's constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

The Republican governor said Monday that the issue should be left to Nebraskans, and not an "activist judge" subverting their will.

Ricketts say he will work with Attorney General Doug Peterson, a fellow Republican, to uphold the current constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2000.

The ACLU of Nebraska hailed the decision as a victory for equal rights.

The ruling on Monday was immediately appealed to the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. In addition to prohibiting gay marriage, Nebraska also forbids civil unions and legalized domestic partnerships.