Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage: How it affects Nebraska, Iowa -
Published Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 12:00 am / Updated at 12:46 pm
Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage: How it affects Nebraska, Iowa

Documents: Read the Supreme Court rulings


The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that the federal government must recognize all legal marriages, including same-sex marriage.

What does that mean for Nebraskans and Iowans?

How does this affect Iowa?

For Iowans, it's an easy answer. Gay marriage is legal in Iowa. That means a gay couple who were married in Iowa, and who lives in Iowa, is now eligible for all federal benefits offered to other couples. We're talking Social Security, veteran benefits, taxes, everything in the federal statute.

How does this affect Nebraska?

For Nebraskans, it's a little more complicated.

Gay marriage is banned in Nebraska. And although the federal government may recognize marriage, it does not overturn individual state marriage bans.

That means Nebraska's ban stands.

But what happens for a gay couple from Nebraska who is legally married in Iowa or any of the other states that offer gay marriage?

It all depends on the federal benefit in question. For example, in order to receive some benefits a couple's marriage must be legal in the state in which they live. Other benefits, such as some veteran benefits, are based on where the marriage took place.

"In Iowa, you will have married people - virtually immediately, receive all of the rights and benefits offered by the federal government," said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Commission.

"In Nebraska, right next door, legally married same-sex couples from Iowa will receive some, but not all the benefits, associated with the federal government," Sainz said.

He believes that the inequity of such a situation will lead to a push for uniformity across the nation. And, he said, many of the federal agencies will be pushed -- perhaps by President Obama -- to require that all federal agencies treat all legally gay married couples alike.

Dave Bydalek, an attorney with Family First in Nebraska, acknowledged that the Supreme Court opinion will lead to a "hodgepodge" of marriage laws across the nation.

Bydalek, who is an opponent of gay marriage, said he was "disappointed" in the ruling.

California's Proposition 8

The Supreme Court dismissed an appeal regarding California's Proposition 8.

It was a technical legal ruling that said nothing about same-sex marriage but left in place a trial court's declaration that California's Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. That outcome probably will allow state officials to order the resumption of same-sex weddings in the nation's most populous state in about a month.

Could the California case have an impact on Nebraska?

The Prop 8 ruling affected only California. It has no impact on Nebraska's ban on same-sex marriage. The only way the California decision could have affected Nebraska is if the Supreme Court had ruled that the California ban is unconstitutional, which would mean all such bans violate the U.S. Constitution. If that were to happen, same-sex marriages would be legal across the nation, including Nebraska.

Could the California case have an impact on Iowa?

No. Iowa has allowed same-sex marriages since 2009, when its State Supreme Court ruled that a ban violated the Iowa Constitution.

Contact the writer: Robynn Tysver    |   402-444-1309    |  

Robynn is's elections writer. She's covered presidential politics in Iowa's caucuses, and gubernatorial and Senate races in Nebraska.

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