Kentucky Lawmakers Pass Bill for 1 Marriage License Form

by Bruce Schreiner

Associated Press

Saturday April 2, 2016

Kentucky Lawmakers Pass Bill for 1 Marriage License Form

Kentucky lawmakers gave their final blessing Friday to legislation creating one marriage license form for gay and straight couples in an effort to defuse the state's controversy over gay marriage.

The proposal is a response to Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who spent five days in jail last year for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on her religious beliefs. Davis said she could not issue the licenses because they had her name on them.

The final version sent to Gov. Matt Bevin's desk cleared the Republican-led Senate on a 36-0 vote Friday. The measure passed the Democratic-controlled House 97-0 a week earlier. Bevin, a social conservative elected last year, endorsed the single-form version, which put the issue on a fast track after it languished for weeks.

"This is progress," Democratic Sen. Morgan McGarvey of Louisville, one of the bill's chief advocates, said after the Senate's final passage. "It says we're going to treat everyone as equals. People are going to get married in the manner they want to get married and no one is going to be treated differently."

Lawmakers from both political parties said they hope the bill resolves the issue.

"The end result was something everyone can live with," said Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, a Republican from Georgetown.

Under the final version, a marriage license applicant would have the option of checking "bride," ''groom" or "spouse" beside their name. The form would not have the clerk's name on it.

In February, the Senate passed a starkly different version that proposed separate marriage license forms for gay and straight couples. Under that version, one form would have listed a bride and groom and the other would have listed "first party and second party." The House scrapped that approach in favor of the single-form approach, and the Senate agreed to it with little discussion on Friday.

Republicans and Democrats alike credited Bevin with helping reach the consensus.

In a letter last month to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Darryl Owens, a Democrat from Louisville, Bevin wrote: "I offer my support for a single form and look forward to signing this legislation and allowing our county clerks to follow the law without being forced to violate their own conscience."

Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, a gay-rights group, said Friday that the single-form approach represented "a common-sense solution that treats everyone with dignity and fairness."

Republican Sen. Stephen West of Paris, the lead sponsor of the original proposal calling for two forms, voted for the single-form version Friday. West said he "took a lot of flak" from critics for his initial proposal.

"I've been called every name in the book," he said.

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