FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — With the blessing of Kentucky’s Republican governor, the state House passed a bill to create one marriage license form for gay and straight couples in an effort to defuse controversy over gay marriages.
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. Davis said she could not issue the licenses because they had her name on them.
The bill that cleared the Democratic-led House without debate Friday proposes that a marriage license applicant would have the option of checking “bride,” ”groom” or “spouse” beside their name. It would not have the clerk’s name on it.
The next step for the measure is a return to the Republican-led state Senate, which passed a starkly different version last month that proposed separate marriage license forms for gay and straight couples.
Gov. Matt Bevin, a social conservative elected last year, publicly entered the debate this week by endorsing the single-form version in a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Darryl Owens, a Democrat from Louisville.
“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,” the governor wrote.
Soon after taking office, Bevin ordered the state to prepare new marriage licenses that do not include the names of county clerks. The executive order was an attempt to protect the religious beliefs of Davis and other local elected officials.
Both pieces of legislation moving through the General Assembly would remove the names of county clerks from marriage licenses. Members of the Kentucky County Clerks Association have endorsed the single-form version, according to Democratic Sen. Morgan McGarvey of Louisville, one of its chief advocates.
“This has taken time, but we’ve built the consensus around the idea that one form is the best way to go because it treats everybody equally and doesn’t invite any problems,” McGarvey said Friday.