Kentucky Judge Denies Spousal Privilege To Same-Sex Couple With Vermont Civil Union

| by Will Hagle
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The state of Kentucky has denied spousal privilege to a woman testifying in the trial of her same-sex partner’s murder. Prosecutors in the case of Bobbie Jo Clary claim that her same-sex partner Geneva Case said that Clary admitted to killing a man and cleaning blood from his van. If Case and Clary were legally married, Case would be able to claim spousal privilege in order to abstain from testifying in court. A judge in Jefferson County Circuit Court recently ruled that spousal privilege would not apply to the two partners.

Clary entered into a civil union with Case in Vermont in 2004. Although the state of Vermont does allow same-sex marriages, legal action is required in order to convert a civil union into a marriage. Thus, under Vermont law, Clary and Case are not technically married. Kentucky does not allow civil unions or same-sex marriages. 

Susan Schultz Gibson, the judge presiding over the case, explained that the state of Kentucky would not allow a Vermont civil union to grant Case spousal privilege.

“At a minimum, the privilege granted by the Commonwealth of Kentucky would require that the parties be actually married,” Gibson told the ABA Journal, “Ms. Case and the Defendant are not, under the law of either Kentucky or Vermont. The fact that Vermont may extend the marital privilege to couples who have entered into a civil union does not require Kentucky to do so.”

Gibson elaborated on the subject, explaining that this is not a matter of Kentucky recognizing the constitutionality of another state’s marriage laws because the two partners are not technically married. “This Court is not required to further examine whether these Kentucky laws are constitutionally repugnant because the arguments of the Defendant and Ms. Case fail not simply because they are not considered married in Kentucky but because they are not considered married in Vermont,” Gibson said.