Federal Judge Strikes Down Nebraska's Same-Sex Marriage Ban; Appeal Pending

(Photo: Reuters/Marvin Gentry)Supporters of same-sex marriage hold a rainbow flag and a rainbow umbrella outside Jefferson County Courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama February 9, 2015. Same-sex couples began marrying in Alabama on Monday despite an attempt by the conservative chief justice of the state's Supreme Court to block judges from issuing marriages licenses to gay men and women in open defiance of a January federal court ruling.

A federal judge struck down Nebraska's same-sex marriage ban on Monday after declaring it unconstitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bataillon found Nebraska law prohibiting same-sex marriage "facially discriminates based on gender" after rejecting the state's argument that the ban promotes family stability. The order takes effect on March 9 although state officials immediately appealed the decision to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, reported ABC News.

"Nebraska's 'Defense of Marriage' Constitutional Amendment, Section 29, is an unabashedly gender-specific infringement of the equal rights of its citizens," Bataillon wrote in the 34-page-ruling. "The State primarily offers as its rational basis for this gender-specific discrimination the encouragement of biological family units. The essence of this rationale has been rejected by most courts and by no less than the Supreme Court. With the advent of modern science and modern adoption laws, same sex couples can and do responsibly raise children. Unfortunately, this law inhibits their commendable efforts."

Attorney General Doug Peterson filed a motion that the 8th Circuit grant an emergency stay which could delay lifting the SSM ban.

"Today, a judge took steps to overturn a constitutional amendment approved by 70% of Nebraskans that defines marriage as between one man and one woman," said Governor Pete Ricketts in response to the newly lifted ban.

He continued: "The definition of marriage is an issue for the people of Nebraska, and an activist judge should not substitute his personal political preferences for the will of the people. I will continue to work with Attorney General Doug Peterson to uphold Nebraska's Constitution and the will of the people of our great state."

Bataillon said he believes that the U.S. Supreme Court "will ultimately endorse, for one reason or another," the constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry nationwide in coming months.

The topic of same-sex marriage remains a hot-button issue around the nation, with conservative groups like the National Organization for Marriage and various political figures, mostly Republicans, vehemently opposed to the redefining of traditional marriage. However; a 2014 Gallup poll suggests 55 percent of Americans, including President Barack Obama, support same-sex marriage.

"I think same-sex couples should be able to get married," President Obama previously told ABC News in 2012.

There are currently 12 states that still ban same-sex marriage including Georgia, Ohio, Louisiana and Texas.