Supporters of same-sex marriage suffered another defeat on Friday when an appellate court ruled a Nebraska ban on such unions was not unconstitutional.

The ruling by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling by upholding the Nebraska Defense of Marriage Amendment, which was approved by voters in 2000. The ban bars same-sex couples from marrying or setting up legal domestic partnerships to share in health insurance or other benefits enjoyed by some married couples.

“All stable societies base their successes on the unique bonds of the family structure, and I am pleased that we can define marriage as between a man and a woman,” Gov. Heineman said in a statement following the ruling.

Last week, New York’s Court of Appeals ruled that denying same-sex couples the right to marry does not violate the state constitution, and the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed a state ban on gay marriage.

Eighteen states have amended their constitutions to define marriage as limited to unions between a man and a woman. On Friday, the Tennessee Supreme Court cleared the way for a vote in that state on a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

© 2006 Reuters