Gay Minister, Partner Arrested After Protesting Denied Marriage License

Rev. Bojangles Blanchard

Rev. Bojangles Blanchard

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KENTUCKY – After a peaceful sit-in, an ordained Baptist minister and his partner were arrested on trespassing charges Tuesday after refusing to leave the Jefferson County clerk’s office when they were denied a marriage license.
The Rev. Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard and Dominique James were placed in a patrol car for the short drive to Metro Corrections when they declined to leave after the office closed at 5 p.m.
Led away without being handcuffed, Blanchard said they declined an offer from police to be cited rather than arrested.
“If we don’t act, we are accomplices in our own discrimination,” he said earlier. “We have to resist.”
Louisville Metro Police Lt. Robert Shadle told reporters that Blanchard, 34, and James, 29, said they felt a “spiritual obligation” to stay and be arrested.
Gay marriage is prohibited in Kentucky by statute and a 2004 constitutional amendment that says “only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be a marriage in Kentucky.”
State law says that any clerk who knowingly issues a license in violation of the statute is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by as much as a year in jail and removal from office.
After marching for an hour in front of the old Jefferson County Courthouse with four supporters in the bitter cold, Blanchard and James walked hand in hand inside and asked for a license to be married.
The manager of the license office, Sandy Byerly, said she could not give one to them because of the state law.
Blanchard said he knew that would be the response but that it was still “humiliating and degrading” to hear it.
He said he was anxious about facing arrest but was “trusting in God and deeply called to do this.”
Blanchard said, “We need to stand up for ourselves and countless others.”
The principles of conduct in the clerk’s office say that “discrimination of any nature” is prohibited. But Jefferson County Clerk Bobbi Holsclaw said her office has no choice but to follow the law.
She did not appear during the protest, but in a brief interview she said the two men “were in the wrong place.”
“They should be at the legislature,” she said.
Dressed in dark suits and ties and wearing matching wool caps embroidered with the words “God is Love,” the couple, who were married in a Unitarian Church 61/2 years ago, sat quietly after they were refused the license.
When they refused to leave at closing time, security guard Tommy Woods said, “Call the sheriff.”Instead, police arrived about 45 minutes later.
Blanchard, who was ordained last year at Highland Baptist Church, where he started an outreach program for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people, said the protest was inspired by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.
Blanchard said the protest was symbolically scheduled for the day after the observation of King’s birthday and in anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court hearing two cases in March in which it could establish a constitutional right to gay marriage.
“We hope that the voices of protest will echo through this land and equality will come about,” he said.
Highland Baptist Church was not involved with the protest.
Martin Cothran, a policy analyst for the Family Foundation of Kentucky, which supported Kentucky’s constitutional amendment, said in an email Tuesday that he still thinks it enjoys “substantial support.”
“We don’t see that changing any time soon, if ever,” he said. “At some point — and we could already have reached that point — the shift in opinion toward redefining marriage will bottom out.”
A Pew Research Center survey taken in December found more support for (48 percent) than opposition (43 percent) to same-sex marriage.
In November, voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington endorsed moves to allow gay marriage, while Minnesota voters rejected a ballot measure that would have enshrined an anti-gay marriage law in their constitution.
Nine states and the District of Columbia now have legalized same-sex marriage.
In President Barack Obama’s inaugural address Monday, he announced his support his support for gay marriage, saying, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.”
Blanchard said he was married to James in June 2006 at the First Unitarian Church in Louisville. But he said they want their marriage recognized by the state.
“It is important that the place we have our home and where we worship allows us the same civil rights that others have,” he said. “We love where we are from.”
from The Courier-Journal

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