Otoe Clerk won’t grant same-sex marriage licences

Posted By: Jenn Schanz

Same–sex couples planning to get a marriage license March 9th might have to find another County Clerk if they live in Otoe County.  

That County Clerk, Janene Bennett, announced publicly that she believes marriage is between one man and one woman.

Despite Monday’s ruling by a federal judge that tossed out Nebraska‘s ban on same–sex marriage, Bennett has said she will not issue marriage licenses to same–sex couples.

Most people in Otoe County think her decision goes against her responsibilities as clerk.

“It’s not based on her opinion. It’s based on what the law says,” says Blaine Riaski of Nebraska City. 

David Partsch is the County Attorney for Otoe; part of his job is making sure county agencies fulfill theirs.

“I’ve obviously had a lot of discussions with Janene Bennett about her personal beliefs and the duties of her office,” he says.

According to Partsch, Bennett is giving her deputy clerks the choice to issue or not issue same–sex marriage licenses.

“My main concern legally is ensuring that the law is carried out whatever it may be,” says Partsch.

He says Bennett only issues a handful of licenses herself each year; he expects the deputy clerks will carry out the office’s duties without any problems.

If they, too refuse, the County Attorney’s office can issue the licenses.

Partsch says Bennett plans to resign from her position, if the federal judge’s order is not overturned.

Again, that order struck down a ban on same–sex marriage that was put in place back in Nebraska back in 2000.

Monday, the state appealed the order almost immediately.

I spoke to several people in Otoe County about Bennett’s decision; they all agree.

“No I don’t think she’s doing the right thing. What she’s doing is putting her personal opinion in a job,” Riaski says. 

“I mean it’s her job to issue them. And if she can’t do her job, she needs to resign and get somebody else in there to do it,” says John McArthur of Nebraska City. 

I reached out to Bennett several times, she would not comment further on her statements.