A Kentucky court is trying to force a lesbian woman to testify against her partner.
Prosecutors say that Geneva Case, who allegedly heard her partner Bobbie Joe Clary admit to murdering a man, must testify against her in court.
Kentucky law says that spouses are exempt from having to testify against each other, and though the two women entered into a civil union in Vermont in 2004, Kentucky does not recognize any type of same-sex union or marriage.
The is first legal test in Kentucky state to determine if same-sex partners will receive the same husband-wife privilege, or be forced to testify against each other.
According to local newspaper Louisville Courier-Journal, Case said she will not testify against her partner, citing the spousal privilege under Kentucky Rule 504 that states: ‘The spouse of a party has a privilege to refuse to testify against the party as to events occurring after the date of their marriage.’
Angela Elleman, one of Clary’s attorney, said: ‘It is going to have a huge impact.’
‘It’s going to come up again and again and again,’ she said referring to same-sex couples that are leaving to wed in other states but must face new legal challenges when they come back home.
Elleman also pointed out that certain states and even countries will recognize foreign same-sex unions that are officiated outside their borders. The Kentucky court must now decide if it will recognize same-sex unions officiated outside state borders, and to what extent.
‘Our position is that Ms. Case and Ms. Clary are not in a valid marriage under Kentucky law,’ said Stacy Grieve, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney, in an interview.
In 2004, Kentucky voters passed a constitutional amendment that only recognizes marriages between a man and a woman.
‘The murder happened here and we have to follow the laws of Kentucky.’
That the ceremony is not a ‘marriage’ is valid and recognized under Kentucky law,’ said prosecutors.
‘Geneva Case and the defendant cannot prove the existence of a marriage under Kentucky law.’
Elleman responded: ‘The right to marry, including the right to marry whom one chooses, is a fundamental right firmly entrenched in American culture and in constitutional law.’
‘Kentucky apparently recognizes that convicted felons have a protected right to marry, yet law-abiding homosexuals are denied legal recognition of their marriage.’
Clary’s attorneys say the two women are legally married and it would be a violation of the Constitution to not grant the couple the same rights, in this case the husband-wife privilege of being exempt from having to testify against each other.
According to prosecutors, Case overheard her partner say that she killed the man, and allegedly saw her partner clean blood out of the man’s van and leave it abandoned. Clary is facing charges of robbery and murder of George Murphy from 29 October 2011.
Clary says the deceased was raping her and she hit him on the head with a hammer in self-defense.
A court hearing date has been set for July 30.