Nebraska’s First Gay Marriage?
In Nebraska, you don’t need to be honest, monogamous, serious or even a resident of the state to walk into any county clerk’s office to tie the not. You don’t even need to be heterosexual. All you need is $20, and a partner of the opposite sex who is 18 or older.
To demonstrate the “absurdity” of Nebraska’s marriage laws, Christine O’Leary, an openly gay comedienne from Connecticut, married Scott Hall, an openly gay activist from Florida, in a Feb. 13 ceremony at the Douglas County Clerk’s office. (See video of the ceremony below)
The wedding was part of protests connected with 8th annual National Freedom To Marry Day, sponsored by the Metropolitan Community Church of Omaha, First Unitarian Church, Second Unitarian Church and activists. Numerous same-sex couples were turned away from receiving a marriage license after Hall and O’Leary.
Nebraska law has specifically prohibited gay marriage since voters adpoted a constitutional amendment in 2000, banning same-sex unions. Same sex marriage is currently legal in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Once you realize how absurd the laws are, O’Leary said, you realize preventing gays from marrying is really about withholding rights from a targeted population.
“The fact that it was so easy is nauseating,” O’Leary said. Hall and O’Leary told the clerk they were both gay, lived out of state and had no plans to live together.
The two are thought to be the first openly gay couple granted a marriage certificate in the State of Nebraska. O’Leary said she wants to get more gay and lesbian couples together and have a draft to pair the guys and gals.
“They can hold the hand of their ‘spouse,’ get married, and turn to make out with their gay partner,” O’Leary said.
The couple is trying to place a marriage announcement in the Omaha-World Herald.
Hall is founder of the Gay American Hero’s Foundation, a Florida based organization that seeks to raise awareness about GLBT hate crimes and honor those who have been murdered because of their sexual orientation.
According to Hall, 39 people were murdered in 2008 for being GLBT. Hall crosses the U.S. with a traveling memorial to the approximately 700 murdered Americans. He also runs an “adopt-a-hero” program, which allows people to assist families effected by hate crimes against the GLBT community.
Hall talks passionately over the phone about some of the most recent inductees.
One is Sean Kennedy, who died in 2007 outside a South Carolina bar after Stephen Moller delivered one fatal punch to Kennedy’s head. Moller reportedly used gay slurs before hitting Kennedy. Moller was originally charged with murder, but a Greenville County grand jury indicted him for involuntary manslaughter, a lesser sentence carrying less than five years in prison.
“When you are openly gay, you put a target on your back,” Hall said. “(These murders) are not about sexuality, it’s about hate in America. These people are domestic terrorists.”
Hall said he is frustrated by some Americans, especially African-Americans, who don’t see the GLBT struggle as part of an ongoing civil rights movement.
“We’re on the back of the bus,” he said. “We’re the Enterprise, the final frontier.”
O’Leary is adamant that people either support equality for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, or they are feeding into the hatred that caused the deaths of numerous gays and lesbians. Like many gays and lesbians, she is all too familiar with the nightmare scenarios that play out at hospitals and in emergency situations when one partner is refused access to their loved one because their union is not legally recognized.
“I know God loves me and wants me to be equal and doesn’t want me to die alone,” she said.
— Bryan Cohen
19 Feb 2009