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Murder Trial Could Affect Kentucky's Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

A murder case in Jefferson County could have serious consequences for Kentucky's ban on same-sex marriage, a law overwhelmingly approved by voters in the Commonwealth during the 2004 election.

A lesbian couple united in a civil union in 2004 in Vermont (where civil unions became legal in 2000 and full marriage equality in 2009) are at the heart of a murder trial. One woman is accused of killing a man and her same-sex partner wants to be protected from testifying against her, a Constitutional right provided to legally married couples.

Reuters reports:

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.

Clary is also charged with tampering with evidence to cover up the crime. If convicted, Clary could face the death penalty.

Under Kentucky law, a person cannot be called to testify against his or her spouse. Most states have a similar type of law.

But Kentucky doesn't recognize same-sex marriages and this case may throw a wrench in the legality of the ban:

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.

Read the full story: Reuters