Nebraska LGBT Laws

Age of Consent Legislation/Cases/References
1. State

Consensual sex between same-sex couples is lawful at age seventeen (17) years [L1.1].

The Nebraska Statutes Chapter 28 Crimes and Punishments provides:

Section 28-319 Sexual assault; first degree; penalty [L1.2].

(1) Any person who subjects another person to sexual penetration …
(c) when the actor is nineteen years of age or older and the victim is at least twelve but less than sixteen years of age is guilty of sexual assault in the first degree.

Section 28-805 Debauching a minor; penalty [L1.1].

(1) Any person not a minor commits the offense of debauching a minor if he or she shall debauch or deprave the morals of any boy or girl under the age of seventeen years by

(a) Lewdly inducing such boy or girl carnally to know any other person; or
(b) Soliciting any such boy or girl to visit a house of prostitution or other place where prostitution, debauchery, or other immoral practices are permitted or encouraged, for the purpose of prostitution or sexual penetration; or
(c) Arranging or assisting in arranging any meeting for such purpose between any such boy or girl and any female or male of dissolute character or any inmate of any place where prostitution, debauchery, or other immoral practices are permitted or encouraged; or
(d) Arranging or aiding or assisting in arranging any meeting between any such boy or girl and any other person for the purpose of sexual penetration.

(2) Debauching a minor is a Class I misdemeanor.

L1.2 LawServer: 28-319 Sexual Assault; first degree; penalty
L1.1 LawServer: 28-805 Debauching a minor penalty
Censorship, Freedom of Association, Freedom of Expression, Free Speech, Right of Assembly Legislation/Cases/References
1. Courts & TribunalsOn 11 August 2017, the US Court of Appeal for the Eighth Circuit upheld Nebraska’s law requiring picketers to stay at least 500 feet from funerals whilst finding that all speakers, including members of Westboro Baptist Church, have a constitutionally-protected right to express their beliefs at funerals [C1.2], [R1.1].
C1.2 Opinion: Shirley Phelps-Roper v. Pete Ricketts No. 16-1902 PDF 78.56KB 11 AUG 17
R1.1 3KMTV: Appeals court upholds Nebraska funeral picketing law 11 AUG 17
Children: Access, Custody, Visitation Legislation/Cases/References
1. Courts & Tribunals

On 26 August 2011, the Nebraska Supreme Court issued a decision that clarifies the custody rights of same-sex couples in the state, in ruling that a lesbian woman can pursue custody and visitation after her relationship ended with the child’s biological mother because she had been acting as the boy’s parent [C1.6], [R1.5].

On 07 April 2011, the Nebraska Supreme Court heard arguments on custody and visitation rights of same-sex couples who once raised a child together. The high court was not expected to rule on the case involving the two Omaha-area women for several weeks [R1.4].

In September 2002, a Douglas County judge ruled that a boy who is the subject of a custody battle between two lesbians must be returned to Nebraska by next month. In June, the Nebraska Supreme Court overturned that a ruling that the joint adoption of him by Bridgens and her former partner, Serenna Russell, was invalid [R1.3].

In June 2002, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that a lesbian who legally adopted her partner’s child in Pennsylvania can petition Nebraska courts for custody of the boy [R1.2].

In September 1997, the Nebraska Court of Appeals upheld a ruling that denied a father’s attempt to modify a custody agreement because his ex-wife had been involved in a lesbian relationship R1.1].

C1.6 Supreme Court: Latham v. Schwerdtfeger 282 Neb. 121 PDF 393.35kb, 26 AUG 11
R1.5 Houston Chronicle: Nebraska high court clarifies same-sex custody rights 26 AUG 11
R1.4 Omaha World-Herald: Same-sex custody case aired 07 APR 11
R1.3 Lincoln Journal Star: Boy in Custody Battle Must be Returned 19 SEP 02
R1.2 Lincoln Star Journal: Lesbian Can Ask State for Custody 29 JUN 02
R1.1 GLINN: Nebraska Ruling Rejects Claim That Lesbian Relationship Hurts Child 02 OCT 97
Civil Unions, Partners: Domestic, Registered Legislation/Cases/References
See also: [MARRIAGE]
1. State

In March 2003, a bill that would give a domestic partner the right as a spouse to make funeral decisions and organ donor decisions was banned by the recent constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage, according to an opinion from the Nebraska attorney general [R1.2]

In August 2000, the Defense of Marriage Amendment, was drafted by a group of Lincoln residents, which if passed in [the] November [ballot], could result in student domestic partner benefits becoming illegal [R1.1].

The Defense of Marriage Amendment says: “Only marriage between a man and woman shall be valid or recognized in Nebraska. The uniting of two persons of the same sex in a civil union, domestic partnership or other similar same-sex relationship shall not be valid or recognized in Nebraska.”

The term “domestic partners” refers to two people who live together and share financial responsibility. This includes both heterosexual and gay couples.

2. Other

On 08 June 2012, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents voted 5–3 to approve the extension of benefits to domestic partners, be they same-sex or opposite-sex partners, as of 01 January 2012 [R2.1].

R1.2 Lincoln Journal Star: Constitution May Not Allow Partners to Make Decisions 16 MAR 03
R1.1 Daily Nebraskan: Amendment could end students’ domestic partner benefits 23 AUG 00
R2.1 Chicago Tribune: University of Nebraska votes to allow same-sex benefits 09 JUN 12
Discrimination Legislation/Documents/Cases/References
1. State

On 18 April 2012, Legislature Bill 912 was indefinately postponed [L1.6].

On 10 February 2012, Senator Beau McCoy introduced bill [LB912] in the Legislature that would if passed, prevent cities from enforcing local rules to protect gays and transgendered people from discrimination [L1.6], [R1.5].

In 2003, Bill (LB441) designed to prohibit sexuality-based discrimination in the workplace, was reintroduced [R1.4].

In April 2002, LB19, was introduced by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha. However, the Legislature called a halt to a bill, stopping it from advancing from the first round of debate [R1.3].

In April 2001, the Nebraska state senate gave tentative approval to a bill that would ban antigay discrimination in housing [R1.2].

In March 2001, a bill that would ban antigay bias in the workplace was approved 5–3 by the Nebraska legislature’s judiciary committee [R1.1].

2. Cities & Towns

On 13 November 2012, the Grand Island City Council passed 6–4 resolution #2012-338 amending the City of Grand Island Personnel Rules and Regulations Section 1.03 that now prohibits the City from discriminating in its employment practices against persons based on their “sexual orientation”. That prohibition does not apply to any other employers [L2.9], [R2.8].

On 29 May 2012, a successful petition drive sponsored by a number of conservative Protestant churches and the community’s Catholic churches that gathered 10,092 signatures, required the Lincoln City Council to repeal the anti-discrimination Fairness Ordinance or put it to a citywide vote. There was no deadline for council action, and the council has taken none. So the ordinance remains on the books, but unenforced [R2.7].

On 14 May 2012, Lincoln City Council voted 5–0 to pass an ordinance to protect gay and transgendered people from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation. Opponents have 15 days to decide whether to refer the ordinance to the people if they can gather about 2,500 signatures [R2.6], [D2.5].

On 13 March 2012, Omaha City Council approved 4–3 anti-discrimination protections for gays and transgender residents, adding sexual orientation and transgender status to the city’s law [R2.4].

On 28 February 2012, Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray will re-introduced an Equal Employment Ordinance that would let gay or transgendered people file complaints with the city, if they believe they suffered workplace discrimination because of their orientation. The measure also prohibits discrimination by restaurants, hotels or bars, but it exempts religious organizations. A public hearing is slated for 06 March 2012 [R2.3].

On 27 October 2010, a basic gay and lesbian anti-discrimination ordinance failed to pass the Omaha City Council. The vote was 3–3 [R2.2].

In October 2010, an antidiscrimination ordinance proposed by Omaha city councilman Ben Gray faced opposition from fellow city politicians and religious groups seeking an exemption [R2.1].

L1.6 LegiScan: LB 912 (Accessed 13 FEB 13)
R1.5 1011NOW: Bill angers Nebraska gay rights supporters 19 FEB 12
R1.4 Daily Nebraskan: Chambers introduces bill to reduce gay discrimination 20 FEB 03
R1.3 Daily Nebraskan: Sexuality discrimination bill fails to advance 19 APR 02
R1.2 The Advocate: Nebraska Senate Approves Bill Banning Housing Discrimination 07-09 APR 01
R1.1 The Advocate: Nondiscrimination Bill Advances in Nebraska 13 MAR 01
L2.9 City of Graand Island: Resolution 2012-338 PDF 239.19kb, 09 NOV 12
R2.8 PinkNews: Nebraska city council implements protections for LGBT city employees 14 NOV 12
R2.7 SFGN: Lincoln, Nebraska Anti-Bias Law Sits On Books, Unenforced 15 JUL 13
R2.6 NebraskaWatchdog: Lincoln passes gay rights ordinance; opponents vow referendum 14 MAY 12
D2.5 Lincoln City Council: FAQ: Fairness Ordnance PDF 12.14kb, 10 MAY 12
R2.4 Reuters US: Omaha narrowly approves law to protect gays from discrimination 13 MAR 12
R2.3 ProgressiveOasis: Bill angers Nebraska gay rights supporters 07 FEB 12
R2.2 PinkPaper: Omaha won’t protect gays from discrimination 01 NOV 10
R2.1 The Advocate: Omaha Antidiscrimination Ordinance Faces Hurdle 19 OCT 10
Gender Identity, Intersex,
Transgender, Transexual
1. Courts & TribunalsOn 02 September 2016, it was reported that in settlement of a Federal lawsuit, the Department of Correctional Services would provide treatment for transgender prison inmate Riley Nicole Shadle and acknowledged that Shadle has gender dysphoria.
R1.1 Omaha World-Herald: Nebraska agrees to treat transgender prisoner who filed lawsuit 02 SEP 16
Hate Crimes Legislation/Cases/References
1. State

In 1997, hate crimes based on sexual orientation became considered an aggravating circumstance [R1.1]

2. Courts & Tribunals

On 15 April 2016, the State Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Gregory Duncan who punched Ryan Langenegger in the face while he was standing up for two friends who are gay. Duncan was convicted of a hate crime even though witnesses testified that the homosexual slurs heard prior to the assault were uttered not by Duncan, but by his friends. The Court found that it could be inferred from the evidence that Duncan’s motivation was his belief that Langenegger was associated with homosexual people [C2.2], [R2.1].

R1.1 ILGA: State-Spsonsored Homophobia PDF 382.87kb, MAY 08
C2.2 Opinion: State v. Duncan No. S-15-668 PDF 154.26kb 15 APR 16
R2.1 Nebraska Supreme Court upholds hate crime law in Old Market assault case 16 APR 16
Health, Medical Legislation/Cases/References
1. Cities & Towns

On 09 December 2014, it was reported that Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler decided to accept Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s definition of marriage, which includes same-sex marriages, extending health insurance and other benefits to the same-sex spouses of city workers. The spouses must show proof of marriage, which must have been performed in a state that allows same-sex marriage, in order to receive city benefits [R1.1].

R1.1 TheWashingtonTimes: Lincoln extending benefits to same-sex spouses 09 DEC 14
Homosexuality, Sodomy Legislation/Cases/References
See also: [AGE OF CONSENT]
1. State

Consensual sex between same-sex couples has been decriminalised [R1.1].

R1.1 ILGA: State of the World in 1996 1996
Marriage Legislation/Cases/References
1. State

On 04 February 2015, the Nebraska legislature passed 38-0 Bill LB 184 that would waive the 180-day residency period for military spouses who want to apply for gun permits with an amendment that applies to ‘anyone receiving the federal benefits of a military spouse’ and the Department of Defense extended benefits to same-sex spouses after the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down in 2013 [R1.3].

As at April 2004, the Nebraska state constitution makes same-sex marriage, civil unions, (and domestic partnerships) unlawful [R1.2].

In November 2000, voters in Nebraska approved constitutional amendments banning homosexual marriages [R1.1].

2. County

On 28 January 2014, Sarpy County Commissioners voted 3-2 to extend health insurance benefits to spouses of gay county employees who have legally married in another state but live in Nebraska with effect from 01 February [R2.2].

On 03 December 2013, the Douglas County Board voted to change the definition of an eligible spouse so it can include someone who is the same gender as the employee and who are legally married in other states. The new definition covers all benefits including health insurance [R2.1].

3. Courts & Tribunals

On 04 February 2016, US District Court Judge Joseph F Bataillon in the Waters et al. v. Ricketts case ruled that Section 29 of the Nebraska Constitution is unconstitutional and ordered ”all relevant state officials are ordered to treat same-sex couples the same as different-sex couples in the context of processing a marriage license or determining the rights, protections, obligations or benefits of marriage” [C3.17], [R3.16].

On 11 August 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit formally affirmed lower court rulings striking down as unconstitutional the now-negated ban on gay marriage and civil unions in Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota [C3.15], [R3.14].

On 29 April 2015, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals cancelled oral arguments in challenges to same-sex marriage bans from Arkansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri until after the US Supreme Court issues its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges [C3.13], [R3.12].

On 05 March 2015, the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ordered a stay of the Susan Waters, et al v. Pete Rickets same-sex marriage case pending disposition of the appeal. Oral argument was set for 12 May 2015 [C3.11], [R3.10].

On 02 March 2015, US District Court Judge Joseph F. Bataillon declared Nebraska’s “Defense of Marriage” Constitutional Amendment, Section 29, an unabashedly gender-specific infringement of the equal rights of its citizens. An injunction effective 09 March 2015 was ordered. The state has filed a notice of appeal [C3.9], [C3.8], [R3.7].

On 17 November 2014, seven same-sex couples filed a federal lawsuit asking the state of Nebraska to recognize their marriages and challenging the constitutionality of the state’s ban [C3.6], [R3.5].

On 13 June 2014, the Nebraska Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by Bonnie Nichols, legally wed to Margie Nichols in Iowa who is now seeking a divorce in the state where they live, finding that the court didn’t have jurisdiction (because the appeal was from a conditional order and not a final judgment) and therefore could not address the constitutional arguments raised about same-sex marriage and divorce in Nebraska [C3.4], [R3.3].

On 25 January 2011, District Judge Randall Rehmeier denied a divorce to a same-sex Nebraska City couple that were married in 2003 in Vermont. He said since the state does not recognize the marriage, he does not have jurisdiction to dissolve it. He did rule on issues of a parenting plan and child support (See: Parenting), which were agreed to by both parties [R3.2].

In 2006, a federal appeals court, the highest-level federal court to take up the issue, reinstated a ban on same-sex marriage that had been approved by voters in 2000. A federal district judge had overturned the ban last year, saying it was discriminatory and punitive [R3.1].

R1.3 GayStarNews: Did Nebraska just accidentally recognize same-sex marriage? 05 FEB 15
R1.2 50-State Rundown on Gay Marriage Laws 26 APR 04
Associated Press: “Commission Reviews First Year of Civil Unions” 07 AUG 01
R1.1 The Age: No to Same-Sex Marriage 09 NOV 00
R2.2 SFGN: Sarpy County, Nebraska Extends Benefits for Same-Sex Couples 30 JAN 14
R2.1 JournalStar: Douglas County to extend benefits to same-sex couples 03 DEC 13
3. Courts & Tribunals
C3.17 Memorandum and Order: Waters v. Ricketts PDF 154.53kb, 04 FEB 16
R3.16 JournalStar: Judge: Nebraska same-sex marriage case is closed
C3.15 Nebraska Opinion: Susan Waters, et al v. Pete Ricketts No. 15-1452 PDF 74.33kb, 11 AUG 15
R3.14 TimesUnion: Appeals court affirms striking of Nebraska gay marriage ban (also in Arkansas and South Dakota) 11 AUG 15
>C3.13 Order: Kyle Lawson, et al. v. Robert T Kelley, State of Missouri No. 14-3779 PDF 22.12kb, 29 APR 15
R3.12 EqualityOnTrial: Eighth Circuit cancels oral argument in marriage cases 30 APR 15
C3.11 Order: Susan Waters, et al. v. Pete Ricketts No. 15-1452 PDF 87.85kb, 05 MAR 15
R3.10 EqualityOnTrial: Nebraska same-sex marriages put on hold, oral arguments set in Eighth Circuit 05 MAR 15
C3.9 Injunction: Susan Waters, Sally Waters, et al. v. Pete Ricketts, et al. No. 8:14-cv-00356-JFB-TDT PDF 22.17kb, 02 MAR 15
C3.8 Memorandum and Order: Susan Waters, Sally Waters, et al. v. Pete Ricketts, et al. No. 8:14-cv-00356-JFB-TDT PDF 312.05kb, 02 MAR 15
R3.7 EqualityOnTrial: Nebraska same-sex marriage ban ruled unconstitutional 02 MAR 15
C3.6 Complaint: Susan Waters and Sally Waters, et al., v. Dave Heineman, et as. No. 8:14-cv-00356 PDF 354.50kb, 17 NOV 14
R3.5 LGBTQ Nation: Same-sex couples file suit challenging Nebraska gay marriage ban 17 NOV 14
C3.4 Opinion: Bonnie Nichols v. Margie Nichols No. S-13-841 PDF 152.62kb, 13 JUN 14
R3.3 LGBTQ Nation: Nebraska Supreme Court dismisses same-sex divorce appeal 13 JUN 14
R3.2 Nebraska City News: Judge denies divorce to same-sex Nebraska City couple 26 JAN 11
R3.1 New York Times: In Nebraska and Tennessee, More Setbacks to Gay Rights 15 JUL 06
Parenting, Adoption, Fostering Legislation/Cases/References
1. State

There is no statutory ban preventing gay men and lesbians from adopting in Nebraska.

The state law provides that “any minor child may be adopted by an adult or adult persons” [R1.5].

State law prohibits second-parent adoptions [R1.4].

On 06 October 2015, it was reported that Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Leah Bucco-White told the AP the state agency had begun the process to list both a child’s biological parent and the parent’s same-sex spouse on the child’s birth certificate at an unspecified future date [R1.3].

On 01 March 2015, the Governor’s office reported that the Department of Health and Human Services would no longer consider the sexual orientation or marital status of individuals wanting to be foster parents or adopt wards of the state and will no longer bar children from being placed with licensed foster parents simply because of the sexual oreientation of the parents [R1.2].

A 1995 directive of the then director of the Department of Social Service prohibits adoption by gay individuals as well as individuals who are cohabitating in an unmarried relationship [R1.1].

2. Courts & Tribunals

On 07 April 2017, the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld the ruling of District Court for Lancaster County John A Colborn in favor of three same-sex couples who said a state policy prevented them from adopting foster kids because of their sexual orientation [C2.10], [R2.9].

On 05 August 2015, District Judge John A Colborn ruled that Nebraska’s discriminatory treatment, policy and practice, toward gay and lesbian foster parents is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause finding in favour of three same-sex couples who wanted to be foster parents for children in Nebraska [C2.8], [R2.7].

On 27 August 2013, gay couples Greg and Stillman Stewart, Lisa Blakey and Janet Rodriguez and Todd Vesely and Joel Busch filed a suit alleging the policy prohibiting them from allowing adoption by or issuing foster parent licenses to “persons who identify themselves as homosexuals” or who are “unrelated, unmarried adults residing together” violates the couple’s equal protection rights under the US Constitution [C2.6], [R2.5].

On 25 January 2011, District Judge Randall Rehmeier ruled on issues of a parenting plan and child support which were agreed to by a same-sex Nebraska City couple that were married in 2003 in Vermont. He denied the couple a divorce (See: Marriage) [R2.4].

In March 2002, a week after rejecting a gay woman’s attempt to adopt her partner’s child, the Nebraska Supreme Court was getting ready to consider another adoption case involving two women [R2.3].

In March 2002, the state Supreme Court rejected an attempt by two lesbians to adopt a child, but dodged the question of whether gay couples have the right to adopt children in Nebraska [R2.2].

In December 2000, Lancaster County Judge James Foster denied an uncontested adoption request, saying there was no provision in state law allowing two nonmarried people to adopt a minor child “no matter how qualified they are to be an adoptive parent” [R2.1].

In October 2001, an appeal to the Nebraska Supreme Court and was expected to be argued.

R1.5 Associated Press: Court to Decide if Gay Couples Can Adopt 05 OCT 01
R1.4 Chicago Tribune: Same-Sex and Parents Too 23 JUN 02
R1.3 TheAdvocate: Nebraska Agrees to Change Birth Certificates to Include Same-Sex Parents 06 NOV 15
R1.2 TheAdvocate: Nebraska Stops Enforcing Ban on Gay Foster Parents 01 MAR 15
R1.1 Court Challenge Could End Florida’s Ban on Gay Adpotion 26 NOV 08
2. Courts & Tribunals
C2.10 Opinion: Greg Stewart et al. v. Dave Heineman 296Neb. 262 PDF 704.58kb 07 APR 17
R2.9 FremontTribune: Court upholds ruling in favor of same-sex couples seeking to adopt foster kids 07 APR 17
C2.8 Order: Greg Stewart and Stillman Stewart; Lisa Blakey and Janet Rodrigyez; and Todd Vesely and Joel Busch v. Dave Heineman, Kerry Winterer and Thomas Pristow No. CI 13-3157 PDF 572.87kb 05 AUG 15
R2.7 ACLU: Historic ACLU Victory: State of Nebraska Barred From Discriminating Against LBGT Foster Parents 05 AUG 15
C2.6 ACLU: Greg Stewart et al v. Dave Heineman et al PDF 284.88kb, 26 AUG 13
R2.5 TalkingPointsMemo: Gay Nebraska Couples Sue For Adoption Rights 27 AUG 13
R2.4 Nebraska City News: Judge denies divorce to same-sex Nebraska City couple 26 JAN 11
R2.3 Omaha World-Herald: Nebraska Supreme Court Will Revisit Gay Adoptions 15 MAR 02
R2.2 Associated Press: Court Rejects Lesbians’ Adoption Attempt 08 MAR 02
R2.1 Lincoln Journal Star: Gay Couple Battles Adoption Law 05 AUG 01
Wrongful Death Legislation/Cases/References
1. Courts & Tribunals

In April 2001, a unanimous decision by Nebraska’s State Supreme Court found that law enforcement authorities had a duty to protect victims, regardless of their gender [R1.1].

R1.1 GenderPAC: A Victory for Gender Rights, and A Victory for Brandon Teena 20 APR 01