New Separate-But-Equal Marriage Licenses Approved in KY

by Micah J. Fleck

Now comes the time to truly examine the merits and precedents set by making it once again legal to subcategorize minority groups in the eyes of the law. A new bill has just cleared the Kentucky senate that not only would force gay couples to file a completely different type of marriage license, but would also strike county clerks’ names from the records and therefore not implicate any particular person for the endorsement of such a separate-but-equal legality.

According to the Associated Press:


[T]he Republican controlled Senate amended the bill as a way to show their support for traditional marriage. Former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear changed the marriage license form last summer once same-sex marriages became legal, removing “bride” and “groom” and replacing it with “first party” and “second party.”

“Quite frankly, it’s almost disrespectful to the traditional family,” said Republican state Sen. John Schickel of Union. “That’s’ why, wisely, we decided to have two forms. That has nothing to do with bigotry, nothing to do with discrimination. It has to do with the vast majority of Kentuckians that respect traditional marriage.”

Democratic Sen. Morgan McGarvey of Louisville tried to amend the bill to create one form, where a person would have the option to check “bride,” ”groom” or “spouse” beside their name. He said having one form would be cheaper and more efficient, and it would treat everyone fairly. It failed.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the lawsuit against Davis, said in a news release the Senate was “setting a dangerous slippery slope precedent by catering to one specific religious belief and privileging that over others.”

“Separate forms for gay and lesbian Kentuckians constitute unequal treatment under the law,” said Michael Aldridge, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky. “Pure and simple, this bill is motivated by the desire to accommodate discrimination against same-sex couples.”

Republican Sen. Stephen West, the sponsor of the bill and whose district includes Rowan County, said gay couples could choose to use the “bride” and “groom” form if they wished.

Two Republicans voted against the bill_Julie Raque Adams of Louisville and Wil Schroder of Wilder— citing their wish to have one form. But others, including Democratic Sen. Gerald Neal of Louisville, said creating two marriage licenses is taking the state “down a path that has already been paved in this commonwealth that has a tendency to reinforce bigotry.”

“Separate has never been equal,” he said.

The bill now heads to the Democratic controlled House of Representatives, where Speaker Greg Stumbo has said the House is likely to pass its own version.

One might remember the upset regarding Rowan County clerk Kim Davis and her refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples post-SCOTUS ruling. This is therefore just the latest in what looks to be a series of pushback and heel-digging by KY in response to the marriage equality position upheld by the Supreme Court.

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