Kentucky's state Senate approved a bill Thursday that creates different marriage license forms for gay and straight couples, with one Republican senator saying any form that does not include the words "bride" and "groom" is disrespectful to traditional families.
The primary purpose of the legislation was to remove the names of county clerks from marriage licenses — a response to the controversy involving Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed after refusing to issue licenses to same-sex couples.
But the Republican-controlled Senate amended the bill as a way to show support for traditional marriage.
Democratic former Gov. Steve Beshear changed the marriage license form last summer after same-sex marriages became legal, removing "bride" and "groom" and replacing it with "first party" and "second party." Gov. Matt Bevin said shortly after his election in November — only the second Republican elected governor of Kentucky after 1943 — that he would change the forms, which had drawn objections from Davis and some other clerks, and shortly after taking office, he ordered county clerks’ names stricken from marriage licenses.
"Quite frankly, it's almost disrespectful to the traditional family," said state Sen. John Schickel, R-Union. "That's why, wisely, we decided to have two forms. That has nothing to do with bigotry, nothing to do with discrimination. It has to do with the vast majority of Kentuckians that respect traditional marriage."
Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, tried to amend the bill to create one form, with the option to check "bride," ''groom" or "spouse." He said having one form would be cheaper and more efficient and that it would treat everyone fairly. It failed.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, which sued Davis on behalf of four same-sex couples whom she had denied marriage licenses, said in a press release the Senate was "setting a dangerous slippery slope precedent by catering to one specific religious belief and privileging that over others."
"Separate forms for gay and lesbian Kentuckians constitute unequal treatment under the law," said Michael Aldridge, the executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky. "Pure and simple, this bill is motivated by the desire to accommodate discrimination against same-sex couples."
Republican Sen. Stephen West, the sponsor of the bill, whose district includes Rowan County, said gay couples could choose to use the from with "bride" and "groom" if they wished.
Two Republicans voted against the bill — Julie Raque Adams of Louisville and Wil Schroder of Wilder — citing their wish to have one form. Other senators, including Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, said creating two marriage licenses would take the state "down a path that has already been paved in this commonwealth that has a tendency to reinforce bigotry … Separate has never been equal."
The bill now heads to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives; Speaker Greg Stumbo has said the chamber is likely to pass its own version.
Al Jazeera with The Associated Press