In Nebraska I interviewed Michael Gordon. He is the Executive Director of Citizens for Equal Protection. Michael and I talked about the lack of rights for LGBT people in this state. There are not workplace or housing protections, no adoption rights, no foster-care rights, and of course gay couples are not allowed to marry…or enter in a civil union…or a domestic partnership. Nebraska was actually the first state to amend their constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Their amendment not only outlawed gay marriage, but any kind of relationship recognition for same-sex couples.
Yet, Michael has been working hard and has managed to help pass a few pieces of pro-LGBT legislation. Couples in Nebraska can designate who they want to handle their funeral arrangements. This is important for same-sex couples who cannot marry. Michael told me the story of a lesbian couple that he was friends with. One of the partners passedaway recently. The other partner went to the funeral home to make the arrangement. However, the woman’s next of kin was there to take over and was going to push her partner out of the picture. The funeral director was going to have the woman escorted out by police! But the two women had filed the funeral-rights paperwork. Still, the partner had to call the ACLU, who called the governor’s office, who put an aide of the phone to explain to the funeral director that the lesbian partner had the final say in the arrangements.
Nebraska has a long way to go. But Omaha is a great city. It actually peeled away one of the states electoral votes and turned it blue for Barack Obama!
The interesting thing about Omaha is that it is right next to Iowa. When you cross the river into Council Bluffs, your citizenship status raises a few points. You can legally marry and you are protected under employment and housing legislation.
After my interview in Nebraska, I crossed into Iowa to interview Mike and Hersh, a legally married same-sex couple. They have been together for nearly 30 years and can finally marry now that the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously decided that discriminating against same-sex couples is unlawful.
Mike told me about his legal-limbo situation. He lives, and is married, in Iowa, but works in Nebraska. When he crosses the river, 10 minutes from his house, into Nebraska, his legal relationship dissolves. He has specifically told his employer that, if anything should happen to him while at work, make sure the ambulance takes him to a hospital in Iowa so that his husband can be there and will have the authority to make decisions about his care.
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