Concealed Carry Bill morphs into same-sex marriage issue in legislature
February 4th, 2015
What started out as a bill giving military spouses quicker rights to apply for concealed weapons permits morphed into a possible exception to Nebraskaâ€™s ban on recognizing same sex marriage in the LegislatureÂ Tuesday.
Lincoln, NE, -Â Current Nebraska law makes people who move into the state wait 180 days before they can apply for a permit to carry a concealed weapon.[audio:https://kvnonews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Legis2_3_KVNO-1.mp3]
But it gives an exception to military personnel. Senator Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins wants to extend that military spouses as well. His bill was being debated as a gun issue until Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus asked “Is there any reason we wouldnâ€™t want to let the gay spouse exercise their right to carry a concealed weapon in Nebraska, when theyâ€™ve moved here because under military law they are married?”
Bloomfield had a quick answer. “Only the fact that under Nebraska law, Nebraska does not recognize that marriage.”
Bloomfield was referring to an amendment to the Nebraska Constitution approved by voters in 2000, prohibiting the state from recognizing same-sex marriages. But Schumacher questioned whether denying equal treatment for same-sex military spouses with regard to guns violates their right to bear arms. “Does not the Second Amendment apply to those people? Should not those people have the same Second Amendment rights to carry a weapon concealed as anybody else? Is not the Second amendment sex-blind; color blind? Does it only belong to some people? Or does it belong to all of us?” Schumacher asked.
Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks said she opposes the proliferation of guns. But she said she also favors equal rights for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people. “I believe that the LGBT people that are spouses of a military person serving our country have every right that every other person has. And that includes the right if they want to, under this law, to go and get a gun and be considered a resident of this state,” she said. “I believe that soon the Supreme Court will decide this whole issue and we will not have to look foolish as Nebraskans arguing this issue,” she added.
Papillion Sen. Bill Kintner said the bill shouldnâ€™t get tangled up with the same-sex marriage issue that the Legislature canâ€™t do anything about. Kintner last year said he opposed domestic partnerships because states that approved them went on to approve gay marriage. He said Tuesday he thinks most Nebraskans view same-sex marriage as no big deal. “I donâ€™t think people in Nebraska for the most part care that much about it,” he said.
“To sit around and say youâ€™re embarrassed by Nebraska, youâ€™re embarrassed by the people in our state â€“ hey, just â€˜cause people have beliefs that differ from youâ€¦I wonder why youâ€™re living here if itâ€™s that bad of a state,” Kintner continued.
Schumacher offered an amendment that would offer the same speeded-up applications for concealed carry permits to anyone whom the federal government offers benefits as a military spouse. That includes same-sex partners.
But Schumacher said it does not amount to Nebraskaâ€™s recognizing same sex marriages, and Bloomfield didnâ€™t object. “I donâ€™t think the amendment really does anything. But if it makes everybody feel better, so be it,” Bloomfield said.
Senators then voted 38-0 for Schumacherâ€™s amendment, and 37-4 first round approval of the bill. But Sen. John Murante of Gretna, who did not vote, said he thinks the bill may violate the Nebraska Constitution. “It appears that we recognize same sex marriage for the purposes of giving a benefit, and that is explicitly prohibited by our state constitution,” he said.
Murante said he may ask for an attorney generalâ€™s opinion. But he also said the issue may be moot by the time the bill would take effect, if the U.S. Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage nationwide in a decision later this year.
In other legislative action Tuesday, lawmakers gave first-round approval to a bill increasing fees for marriage licenses. Sen. Kathy Campbell had proposed an increase from the current $15 to $50 in the fee she said hadnâ€™t changed in 20 years. After three days of filibustering by Chambers, they agreed on an amendment offered by Kintner that compromised on a fee of $25.