marriage license application

Marriage license application identifiers were changed from "bride and groom" to "applicant" at the Lancaster County Clerk's office on Feb. 19, 2015.

A walk down the aisle. Flower girls. Family and friends looking on from the pews.

Lots of people like a good church wedding, and same-sex couples might have that choice if the state’s ban on gay marriage is overturned.

More than 50 clergy in Nebraska have pledged to perform same-sex marriages if the ban is lifted.

Heartland Clergy for Inclusion, an interfaith coalition, is leading the effort to mobilize clergy.

“It’s important for people to understand there are religious leaders who support equality for same-sex couples when it comes to marriage,” said the Rev. Scott Jones, an organizer of the effort and senior minister at Omaha’s First Central Congregational United Church of Christ.

Several Omaha churches have plans to open immediately for weddings if same-sex marriage becomes legal, he said.

Rev. Pamela Owens of Metropolitan Community Church said she expects a flurry of such ceremonies in Nebraska. Some pastors who are new to same-sex weddings, she said, are brushing up on differences they may encounter — such as two brides processing down the aisle.

Clergy making the pledge are mostly from the Omaha area and Lincoln, but there are some in North Platte and Scottsbluff as well. Protestant denominations and several Jewish congregations are represented.

The United Church of Christ has a history of welcoming the LGBT community. More than a dozen of the denomination’s minsters have made the pledge.

After a hearing last Thursday on Nebraska’s gay marriage ban, U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon did not immediately overturn it as some expected — or hoped — he would. Instead, the judge said he would take some time to issue a ruling, although he promised to do it “expeditiously.”

During the hourlong hearing, Bataillon made it clear he believes the state’s ban is unconstitutional. But he also indicated that, even if he strikes down the law, he may put his own ruling on hold pending the state’s appeal to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The fate of Nebraska’s ban — like those in a dozen other states that still outlaw same-sex marriage — may ultimately rest with the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expected to rule by late June on whether states have a right to forbid gay marriages or to refuse to recognize such marriages performed elsewhere.

Owens said she was pleased with the response from clergy. Although some couples will choose a civil ceremony, she said, others want a church wedding.

“We’re happy we’ve been able to mobilize clergy who will make it possible for same-sex couples to have a marriage ceremony blessed by the church,” she said.

The list of clergy can be found at http://www.heartlandproclamation.org/ready-to-marry/.

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