Kentucky’s Separate-but-Equal Marriage Bill Is So Extreme, Even Kim Davis Opposes It

Rowan County clerk Kim Davis, who opposes Kentucky’s new separate-but-equal same-sex marriage bill.

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The Republican-dominated Kentucky Senate recently voted overwhelmingly to create a separate-but-equal marriage license system in the state: Opposite-sex couples may continue to call themselves bride and groom on the license, while same-sex couples can use a different form that refers to first party and second party. Republicans claim that the system was designed to “respect traditional marriage”; as John Culhane explained in Slate, the obvious actual purpose is to “disparage same-sex couples by bundling them into an android space.” (One clue as to the bill’s true intention: Republicans rejected an amendment that would create one form for everyone and allow couples to choose among the terms husband, wife, and spouse.)

Everyone is calling the Kentucky measure the “Kim Davis bill,” after the infamous Rowan County clerk who denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples last summer. But as Kentucky Sen. Morgan McGarvey—who proposed the amendment calling for a single form—wrote on Facebook, Davis actually opposes the separate-but-equal system. Instead, she supported McGarvey’s alternative, agreeing with his proposition that “one form is easier to handle, less expensive and puts everyone on equal footing”:

Mrs. Davis stood up to speak. We had never met and I had no idea what to expect. To my pleasure, and admittedly my surprise, Mrs. Davis agreed with my amendment and my approach. In front of a room full of her colleagues she emotionally acknowledged her role in causing this debate but whole-heartedly endorsed my amendment. As Mrs. Davis told the other clerks, they should support my amendment because using two forms just invites problems.

Ultimately, however, the Senate rejected the amendment, refusing to heed the advice of the woman who spurred the need for a new licensing system in the first place.

The Kentucky bill is just one of many explicitly anti-LGBT measures proposed so far this year in statehouses across the country. Georgia is poised to pass a law legalizing discrimination against same-sex couples and single parents; the Virginia House of Delegates has already approved a bill to let clerks deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples; and South Dakota appears eager to surrender $195 million in federal education funding just to mandate anti-trans discrimination in public schools. All these bills are outlandishly intolerant in their own ways. But Kentucky in particular should take note: When Kim Davis speaks out against your bill, you’ve probably gone too far.