Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Ky. AG Stays out of Same-Sex Privilege Issue ; 'Husband-Wife' Privilege in Question

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Ky. AG Stays out of Same-Sex Privilege Issue ; 'Husband-Wife' Privilege in Question

Article excerpt

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Kentucky's attorney general is staying out of a dispute over whether a law exempting spouses from testifying against each other applies to same-sex couples, as prosecutors seek to force a woman to take the stand in her female partner's coming murder trial. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Stacy Grieve said at a hearing Friday that Attorney General Jack Conway's office doesn't intend to offer arguments on whether Geneva Case can invoke the "husband-wife" privilege under state law for refusing to testify at the trial of her civil-union partner, Bobbie Joe Clary.

Grieve said the attorney general's office routinely defers to local prosecutors in cases in which constitutional matters are challenged in court.

"That is simply what is being done today," she said.

But attorneys for Clary and Case said the attorney general's absence reflects the weakness of the state's case in trying to compel Case's testimony.

"The fact that the attorney general's office has declined to weigh in on this issue speaks volumes," said Bryan Gatewood, an attorney representing Case.

He added the AG's office shouldn't "outsource their responsibility on what is a very challenging and controversial issue."

The attorney general's office was not represented at the hearing in Jefferson County Circuit Court.

Allison Martin, a spokeswoman for Conway, a Democrat, said in an email afterward the attorney general's office "is not a party to this action and it is our position that the commonwealth is adequately represented by the local prosecutor in this case."

The case looms as the first legal test in Kentucky over forcing same-sex partners to testify against each other. It also raises the broader issue of whether the state recognizes marriages or civil unions that are legal elsewhere. The case could have ramifications for issues such as divorces and division of property after death. …

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