- Associated Press - Saturday, March 29, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A Raymond woman who married her same-sex partner five years ago in Iowa is now petitioning the Nebraska Supreme Court to be allowed to divorce.

Bonnie Nichols married her long-time partner, Margie, in 2009, the Lincoln Journal Star reported (http://bit.ly/1ld48Xi). But when the Nichols filed for divorce last year, a Lancaster County District Court judge dismissed their petition, saying the court could not grant the divorce without recognizing the marriage.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Iowa since 2009. Nebraska doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships, under a constitutional amendment approved by 70 percent of voters in 2000.

The inability to get divorced raises a number of potential problems for both women, as well as liabilities related to filing federal taxes, being responsible for each other’s debt, Social Security income and other retirement benefits, said Bonnie Nichols’ attorney, Megan Mikolajczyk, of Omaha.

An annulment doesn’t offer the same legal protections as a divorce, nor does it address issues of alimony or property division, Mikolajczyk said.

The women cannot remarry, even to someone of the opposite sex, Mikolajczyk said. Doing so without a divorce would run afoul of bigamy laws.

“They want to terminate this contract just as anyone else in our state has the right to dissolve their marriage,” Mikolajczyk said. “They both would like the opportunity to move on with their lives, and you can’t really do that if other states and the federal government perceive them as still married.”

The case currently is before the state Court of Appeals, but Mikolajczyk has petitioned the state Supreme Court to hear it.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska and Legal Aid of Nebraska filed friend of the court briefs Thursday in support of the appeal. Both groups argued divorce could be handled without delving into the constitutionality of Nebraska’s ban of same-sex marriage, and that not letting courts hear such cases violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning’s office has filed a brief asking that the Lancaster County court’s ruling be upheld, arguing that the constitutionality of Nebraska’s same-sex marriage law shouldn’t be considered and that divorce isn’t a right.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com