Main | Wednesday, August 14, 2013

KENTUCKY: Murder Trial May Force Reversal Of Same-Sex Marriage Ban

The case of a Kentucky lesbian accused of murder has the potential to upend that state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
A legal debate over whether one member of a same-sex couple has spousal privilege that would shield her from testifying against her partner is at the heart of a capital murder case in politically conservative Kentucky. Geneva Case, 49, does not want to testify in a Louisville court against her partner, Bobbie Jo Clary, 37, who is accused of beating George Murphy, 64, to death with a hammer in 2011 and then stealing his van. Prosecutors say Case must testify because of her value as a witness, since she heard Clary admit to the slaying and also saw blood on the interior of the victim's van after the killing. Clary says Murphy used a hammer to sexually assault her, and she defended herself by hitting him over the head.
The couple was civil-unioned in Vermont in 2004. According to their lawyers, should the battle for the spousal privilege rule be successful, Kentucky's ban could be reversed.
Both Clary's attorney, Angela Elleman, and Case's attorney, Bryan Gatewood, said the Kentucky marriage amendment is unconstitutional and the pair should be treated like any other married couple. The attorneys also say they are cautiously optimistic that this case will lead to the amendment being held as unconstitutional, setting a precedent for change nationwide. In light of recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage, "the climate is right" for the Kentucky amendment to be thrown out, Elleman said. "I believe the handwriting is already on the wall," Gatewood said. He believes the Kentucky attorney general's office, which says it is reviewing the case, will find that the state law is unconstitutional under the same reasoning.
What a strange way to get there. (Tipped by JMG reader Richard)

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