ACLU of Kentucky Challenges Marriage License Requirement on Behalf of Inmate and Fiance

Affiliate: ACLU of Kentucky
October 24, 2012 12:00 am

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Argues that law requiring marriage license applicants to appear “in-person” at Clerk’s office violates inmates’ right to marry.

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LOUISVILLE, KY – Today the ACLU of Kentucky filed suit on behalf Patricia Locke and her fiance Jeremy Devers, an inmate in Kentucky’s prison system. They are suing Bullitt County Clerk Kevin Mooney over his enforcement of a Kentucky law that requires both persons seeking a marriage license to personally appear in the Clerk’s office, and also over his revocation of a marriage license previously issued to the couple by his office earlier this year.

The Plaintiffs, who have known each since 1988, became engaged earlier this year with the intention of marrying despite Devers’ incarceration. Using a form provided by the Bullitt County Clerk’s office specifically designed for inmates seeking marriage licenses, Plaintiffs obtained a valid marriage license in March and made arrangements for an April wedding at the prison. Just days before the scheduled wedding, however, Mooney revoked the Plaintiffs’ marriage license without prior notice citing a newly-adopted policy purportedly based on a Kentucky law that requires both persons seeking a marriage license to personally appear in the Clerk’s office.

In the suit filed today, the Plaintiffs assert that the law, as enforced, effectively prevents any inmate from obtaining a marriage license in violation of a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling recognizing that, subject to reasonable restrictions, inmates retain a constitutionally protected interest in the right to marry.

Commenting on the case’s implications, ACLU of Kentucky Executive Director Michael Aldridge stated, “At its most basic, this case is about challenging the government’s authority to impose an unnecessary and unduly restrictive limitation upon the rights of Kentucky inmates and their fiances to marry.” He added, “The fact that the Bullitt County Clerk’s office initially issued Plaintiffs a marriage license through the use of a form prepared and provided by that office underscores that the “in-person” requirement is unnecessary and serves no legitimate purpose.”

In their suit, Plaintiffs seek a declaration that the law is unconstitutional and an injunction to block enforcement of the “in-person” requirement when they re-submit their application for a marriage license. Plaintiffs also seek damages relating to Mooney’s revocation of their previously-issued marriage license.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kentucky is freedom IS watchdog, working daily in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend individual rights and personal freedoms. For additional information, visit our Web site at:

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