On Thursday, Kentucky's state Senate voted in favor of a bill that would ask Kentucky courthouses to offer two marriage license forms: One referring to the members of the couple as "first party and second party," and another referring to them as "bride" and "groom."
The bill is designed to mollify the likes of Kim Davis, the Kentucky marriage clerk who notoriously refused to issue licenses to gay couples, but is being criticized for establishing a "separate but equal" policy for marriage. Historically, separate but equal has never really meant equal.
The bill was introduced in Senate back on January sixth by and would walk back the decision by Republican Senator Steven West as a way to formalize Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin's decision to modify marriage license forms by removing the line where, in the past, marriage clerks had entered their names.
Bevin's office explained in December that "to ensure that the sincerely held religious beliefs of all Kentuckians are honored, Executive Order 2015-048 directs the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives to issue a revised marriage license form to the offices of all Kentucky County Clerks. The name of the County Clerk is no longer required to appear on the form." The move was seen as a way to protect clerks like Davis, who was held in contempt of court and jailed for refusing to marry gay couples and became a figurehead for the anti-gay marriage movement.
At some point, however, the bill morphed into something a little different: Not only would clerks not be required to sign their names to the marriage license forms, but the recently obsolete "bride and groom" form would be reintroduced. According to the Courier-Journal, West reported that clerks said constituents want separate forms.
Senator Morgan McGarvey, a Democrat, argued that there's no reason to have two forms, and that one form "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,” he said.
But the bill went through with the two-form amendment intact, and passed with a 30-8 majority.
Opponents to the bill say it discriminates against gay couples. In a statement Michael Aldridge the Executive Director of the ACLU of Kentucky, said, "separate forms for gay and lesbian Kentuckians constitute unequal treatment under the law. Pure and simple, this bill is motivated by the desire to accommodate discrimination against same-sex couples," adding, "the legislature is setting a dangerous slippery slope precedent by catering to one specific religious belief and privileging that over others."
One step forward for the world's Kim Davises, one step back for everyone else.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.