LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska's defunct same-sex marriage ban could once again go before voters under a measure in the Legislature that seeks to remove it from the state constitution.
The proposal triggered several heated exchanges Wednesday during a legislative hearing, with one senator predicting that voters are too "bigoted" to strike the ban even though it's no longer enforceable.
Nebraska voters approved the state's marriage amendment in 2000 with 70 percent support, but the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling in June effectively overturned it by allowing same-sex marriage nationwide. Despite the decision, Nebraska's ban remains in its constitution.
Sen. Burke Harr of Omaha told the Judiciary Committee that his proposed amendment would ensure the constitution stays consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling. Harr said he believed voters would approve the amendment.
"I know they will do what's right," Harr said. "They will understand that this constitutional amendment is not right. We tried something, and the U.S. Supreme Court told us no."
Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha said he supports Harr's proposal but warned that putting it to a vote could harm the state's reputation and discourage businesses and "forward-looking people" from coming to Nebraska.
"As backward, as bigoted as Nebraskans are, to make a point, they would vote no so that it wouldn't be taken out," Chambers said.
He later added: "I want the record to be crystal clear that I predicted how intolerant, how discriminatory, how hate-filled the majority of Nebraskans are."
The Nebraska Catholic Conference and the Nebraska Family Alliance opposed the measure.
Greg Schleppenbach, the Nebraska Catholic Conference's executive director, said his group sees no legal reason to remove the provision. Schleppenbach said Nebraska should maintain its definition of marriage for the benefit of children and not give "moral legitimacy to an erroneous judicial opinion."
"Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable," Schleppenbach said.
Nate Grasz, a policy analyst for the Nebraska Family Alliance, said the measure was needlessly divisive and wouldn't accomplish much.
"Why create more controversy at this time over something that's unenforceable anyway?" he said.
The comments from opponents drew sharp criticism from Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln, whose son is gay.
"I cannot believe you are still doing this," she said. "It's very hurtful. It continues the hatred. It continues the lack of respect that we have in this state. And I hope you can drop it."
The measure is LR389CA