Kentucky Senate committee members on Wednesday voted for a bill intended to shelter county clerks from being forced to add their names on marriage licenses of same-sex couples. The bill now will go to the full Senate for a vote, which currently is Republican-controlled.
Senate Bill 5 passed the Senate State and Local Government Committee without serious opposition, reports the Courier-Journal, however, some critics are concerned that allowing two different marriage license treatments is equivalent to treating gays and lesbians differently.
The new regulation is presumed largely to codify an executive order by Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin designed to allow Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis to have her office issue gay marriage licenses without placing her name on them. Davis gained national notoriety last summer when she refused to comply with a judge's order to issue licenses to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said gay people have a right under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to be married. She then was briefly jailed.
Rather than a county clerk's name appearing on marriage licenses, just the name of the office's employee that records the license would be on it, under the provision of the new bill.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Steve West, R-Paris, told the Courier-Journal one form would include spaces for "bride" and "groom," and the other one would include spaces for "first party" and "second party." He said county clerks asked for different forms because constituents wanted them.
Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, called for a floor amendment to create a single marriage license form that would allow each person to decide whether they wanted to be identified as "bride" or "groom" or simply as "spouse."
"You would just have one form. It would probably be cheaper, it would be more efficient and wouldn't treat people differently, and I just don't see the downside of that," McGarvey said.
West said he wouldn't consider McGarvey's proposed amendment a "deal breaker," but declined to say if he would support it.
Additionally, U.S. District Judge David Bunning on Tuesday issued an order stating Davis had not gotten in the way of her office's marriage licensing functions, even though she immediately removed her name from the Rowan County forms upon her release from jail last September, reports MSNBC. Because Davis did so without permission from the state, LGBT advocates were concerned she had jeopardized the validity of all marriages licensed with the altered forms.
"There has been no indication that Davis has continued to interfere with the issuance of marriage licenses since Sept. 20, 2015," wrote Bunning in a three-page order. "Moreover, there is every reason to believe that any altered licenses issued between Sept. 14, 2015 and Sept. 20, 2015 would be recognized as valid under Kentucky law, making re-issuance unnecessary."