By Carson Vaughan LINCOLN, Neb. (Reuters) - A federal judge on Monday ruled Nebraska's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional in a decision that could allow same-sex couples to marry in the state within a week. U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon issued a preliminary injunction in the case brought by seven same-sex couples in the state, calling Nebraska's ban an "unabashedly gender-specific infringement of the equal rights of its citizens." Bataillon denied a state request to stay his decision but said his injunction would take effect on March 9 to assuage Nebraska officials' concerns of possible administrative turmoil. Nebraska state officials quickly appealed the ruling to the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. "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," Governor Pete Ricketts said in a statement.
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Four North Dakota missionaries caught up in escalating political tension between the U.S. and Venezuela are expected home on Tuesday after spending a couple of days on a Caribbean Island recovering from their ordeal.