Faced with the legal reality that they can’t stop same-sex couples from getting married, Kentucky lawmakers are now trying to create separate forms for gay and straight couples.
The Kentucky senate voted 30-8 Thursday to pass SB 5, mandating separate application forms for marriage licenses. The form for straight couples will have a space for “bride” and “groom,” while the form for same-sex couples will say “first party” and “second party.” Although the Courier-Journal reports that lawmakers acknowledge they are reacting directly to Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis and her refusal last year to sign marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples, they say these separate forms still create equal marriages.
SB 5 also removes the statutory requirement that marriage licenses be signed by county clerks such as Davis. The state’s governor, Matt Bevin, had already made that change with an executive order in December. The legislation is intended to codify that idea and goes even further by creating separate forms.
The American Civil Liberties Union in the state vigorously disagrees that having two forms is equal. It launched a letter-writing campaign targeting lower chamber representatives, who are next to decide on the bill.
“Separate forms for gay and lesbian Kentuckians constitute unequal treatment under the law,” said Michael Aldridge, executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky, in a statement. “Pure and simple, this bill is motivated by the desire to accommodate discrimination against same-sex couples.”
The ACLU is actually still locked in a legal fight with Davis, who renewed her quest in January to get a religious exemption that would allow her to skip marriage licenses for same-sex couples. She argues couples can just go to another county. Davis is now appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which has yet to rule.
Aldridge said the ACLU is trying to “ensure that all loving couples can access the rights they’re entitled to under the law. That means that everyone, regardless of how they identify, can access the same form.”