Kim Davis supporters are having a good week.
Six months after the controversial Kentucky clerk was briefly jailed for refusing to comply with a court order that she issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, lawmakers and a federal judge are taking tangible steps to accommodate her desire that county clerks’ names not appear on the Bluegrass State’s marriage license forms.
On Wednesday, a bill that would remove the names of county clerks from Kentucky’s marriage licenses passed out of the Senate State and Local Government Committee and now heads to the Republican-controlled state Senate floor for a full vote. Supporters view the measure, Senate Bill 5, as an attempt to codify an executive order issued two months ago by the newly-minted Republican Gov. Matt Bevin that shielded religious county clerks from being named on marriage licenses – an action Bevin’s predecessor, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, insisted could only be implemented through the legislature. But LGBT advocates worry the bill could create a marriage licensing system that discriminates against same-sex couples.
Under the bill, county clerks would have two forms – one that includes spaces for “bride” and “groom” and another with spaces for “first party” and “second party.” LGBT advocates would prefer to see one form with checkboxes for “Bride/Groom/Spouse” to avoid any disparate treatment of couples getting one license over another.
“Separate has seldom been equal,” said Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, in an interview with The Courier-Journal.
Meanwhile, in a more tailored victory for Davis, a federal judge on Tuesday issued an order saying that she 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. Because she did so without permission from the state, LGBT advocates were concerned she had jeopardized the validity of all marriages licensed with the altered forms.
U.S. District Judge David Bunning, a President George W. Bush appointee who found Davis in contempt of court last year and put her behind bars, warned her not to interfere with his order that all eligible applicants – including same-sex couples – be able to receive marriage licenses in Rowan County. And on Tuesday, Bunning officially determined that she had not.
“There has been no indication that Davis has continued to interfere with the issuance of marriage licenses since September 20, 2015,” wrote Bunning in a three-page order. “Moreover, there is every reason to believe that any altered licenses issued between September 14, 2015 and September 20, 2015 would be recognized as valid under Kentucky law, making re-issuance unnecessary.”