FRANKFORT – The state Senate moved to change Kentucky marriage licenses today, passing a bill that would remove county clerks’ names from the license forms while creating a separate document for same-sex couples.
Senate Bill 5 passed, 30-8. It seeks to codify Gov. Matt Bevin’s Dec. 23 executive order while making adjustments in response to last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage. As such, the bill would provide for two different marriage license forms. One would identify the couple seeking the license as “bride” and “groom.” The other would be gender neutral.
Provisions of the bill would also remove the clerk’s name from the form, though individual clerks could add it later if they desired.
Proponents praised it as a win for religious freedom.
Senate President Robert Stivers II, R-Manchester, who supported the bill, was among proponents who cast the bill’s passage as a positive step forward.
“There are individuals out there that want to have their union recognized, and that is the law and we will abide by it,” Stivers said.
“But there are people in this state, [that] have religious beliefs and convictions,” he added, and the traditional “bride/groom” form affirms their beliefs.
SB5 became a priority after last summer’s Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. Following the decision, a handful of county clerks refused to issue the licenses embossed with their names, citing their faith. Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis was later jailed for five days by a federal judge for contempt for refusing his order to resume issuing licenses to single-gender couples.
Thursday’s bill had clear opposition, including a failed attempt to amend the bill and eliminate the separate forms. Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, proposed the change which would have given applicants a choice of checking “bride,” “groom” or “spouse” on one form. The amendment was voted down, 23-15.
Senate Bill 5 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.