Published April 28, 2016
Kentucky's state Senate approved a bill Thursday that creates different marriage license forms for gay and straight couples, with one Republican senator saying any form that does not include the words "bride" and "groom" is disrespectful to traditional families.
The primary purpose of the legislation was to remove the names of county clerks from marriage licenses, a response to the controversy surrounding Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis and her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
But the 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, 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.