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Following Kim Davis Drama, Kentucky Legislators Debate Marriage Certificate Options

by Stephen Peters February 26, 2016

Last year, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis garnered national attention for refusing to comply with numerous court orders related to the landmark Supreme Court marriage equality ruling. Since then, legislators in Kentucky have been debating changes to marriage certificates in the state, and in their haste, they have created even more problems.

Senate Bill 5, which passed the Kentucky Senate by a vote of 30 to 8, would create two separate forms from which couples would choose when applying for a marriage license. One would list a “bride and groom” and the other, intended for same-sex couples, would list "first party and second party."

Then, in an attempt to fix the issue of two separate forms, Kentucky State Senator Morgan McGarvey introduced an amendment to create one form with the options “bride,” “groom” and “spouse,” which the Senate failed to accept. In trying to find common ground, Sen. McGarvey met with 96 County Clerks and Deputy Clerks from across Kentucky, including Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis.

“This pointless and mean-spirited legislation is driven by nothing more than animosity towards loving and committed LGBT couples seeking their constitutional right to a marriage licence,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Kentucky lawmakers should abandon this senseless measure.”

Pro-equality state lawmakers and advocates agree. ACLU of Kentucky’s Executive Director Michael Aldridge stated that “separate forms for gay and lesbian Kentuckians constitute unequal treatment under the law. Pure and simple, this bill is motivated by the desire to accommodate discrimination against same-sex couples.”

Chris Hartman, Executive Director of the Fairness Campaign testified in committee against two forms by stating that “separate has seldom been equal” and urged the state legislature to ensure the use of one unified form.

Several Kentucky couples from the dozens of plaintiffs in the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges case responded to the attempt by their lawmakers to move forward with the legislation:

“It is unfortunate that our state lawmakers find it necessary to focus their efforts on creating separate marriage licenses to minimize the significance of same-gender relationships, especially as our state faces critical challenges in both healthcare and education.” - Randy Johnson and Paul Campion

“Two marriage license forms are unnecessary and separate is never equal. This year is the 50th anniversary of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. Kentucky led the South in ending discrimination in 1966, but sadly today it seems our state wishes to lead the south in creating discrimination.” - Tim Love and Larry Ysunza-Love

“We were at our state capital last Wednesday, February 17th, lobbying for Senator McGarvey's amendment to SB5 to have one form for Kentucky marriage licenses. A separate and not equal form is unacceptable! County clerks themselves agree with the amendment, even Kim Davis!  Kentucky lawmakers are going out of their way to not offer equal and fair solutions for same-sex couples!” - Michael De Leon and Greg Bourke

“Tammy and I support State Senator Morgan McGarvey’s amendment to create one form with the options ‘bride,’ ‘groom’ and ‘spouse,’ because ‘separate is not equal’ (as reasonable people understand). We are honored to have been Kentucky plaintiffs in the marriage equality case which succeeded at SCOTUS and remain committed to fighting inequality and discrimination in our state.” - Tammy and Kim Franklin-Boyd

“Our family is saddened by the continual attacks on Obergefell v Hodges. Senate Bill 5 does nothing but create more turmoil and waste of taxpayer dollars. As residents of Kentucky, we know that those dollars are needed elsewhere. We support Senator McGarvey’s one form solution.  We should know from history that separate is never equal.” - The Yorksmith Family

Now SB 5 heads to the House for consideration where LGBT leaders hope will be amended to unify all marriage licenses in Kentucky to use the same form. HRC joins with our partners at the ACLU of Kentucky and the Fairness Campaign in calling on the Kentucky House to amend SB5 when it comes up for a vote.

Stephen Peters
Stephen Peters


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