Kentucky Judge Forces Lesbian Spouse to Testify Against Her Partner

Most people know that civil marriage comes with thousands of legal rights — the ability to file joint tax returns, to inherit property, to make medical decisions, to be on your spouse’s insurance…but one right most of us don’t give a lot of thought to is the right not to be incriminated by our spouse on the witness stand. Federal and state law throughout the U.S. offers spousal immunity that protects anyone from being forced onto the stand by the prosecution to testify against their husband or wife.

So what happens when you have a same-sex couple caught in a legal battle in a state where gay marriage isn’t recognized? Well, in the case of a recent Kentucky murder case, the answer seems to be that courts can discriminate against gay couples and deny them the protections given to straight couples in the same situation.

The trial in question is complicated — Bobbie Jo Clary has been accused of murdering a man two years ago, and her wife Geneva Case might be the key witness. Clary has been charged with fatally wounding George Murphy in his Portland home in 2011, then stealing his van. Clary maintains that the killing was one of self-defense, and that Murphy was raping her when she fought back by hitting him with a hammer.

Prosecutors allege that Case heard Clary admit to the murder and even witnessed her cleaning blood out of the victim’s van. Rightly or wrongly, Case has refused to testify against Clary — a decision which may be completely understandable to anyone in a  long-term relationship. This choice is well within the rights of any legally-married heterosexual couple, regardless of which state they were married in or where they live.

This didn’t sit well with Judge Susan Schultz Gibson of Jefferson Circuit Court, who ruled Monday that since same-sex marriages aren’t legal under Kentucky law, Case could legally be forced to testify against her spouse. This despite the fact that the two women have had a civil union under Vermont law since 2004 — the closest they could get to legal marriage at the time.

Case’s lawyer plans to appeal the ruling in advance of the trial next February. He believes that the couple is married “for all intents and purposes” and should be treated the same as any married straight couple would be in this situation. This case is the first of its kind to hit the national stage, and could have far-reaching implications.

While this may be an ugly situation, the sad fact is, difficult times are often when civil rights matter the most. If we can’t rely on the court system to protect the rights of same-sex couples on the stand, how can we rely on them to offer hundreds of other vital protections to the LGBT community? Whether you believe Clary deserves to be convicted or not, that doesn’t change the fact that she and Case are being blatantly discriminated against based on their gender and sexual orientation — and that’s wrong, regardless of Clary’s guilt or innocence.


GGma Sheila D.
Sheila GG D4 years ago

Wonder what stand the DA and the judge personally have regarding LGBT...Otherwise all the info doesn't seem to be in the article, re: previous record, etc. this cast, as presented to us, seems to be about LGBT marriage rights. Yet, if you dig a bit deeper, the actual case is about Murder, maybe even theft. No matter how you want it to be, KY does not recognize civil unions in other states. You can't change those facts to suit you - you Have to play by the rules set out in each state. Deal with it - and vow to try and change KY's law.

Elke Hoppenbrouwers

You would think a spouse is a spouse is a spouse. when will we have equal rights for everyone?

Mary L.
Mary L4 years ago

No doubt about it until everyone can get married the "special privileges" of marriage are not equal and we have no equal protection under the law.

Don Swanz
Don Swanz4 years ago

ELEGANTGYPSY, BARBARA V and so many other out there; who are attempting to take the moral high ground. This is not a question of "spousal immunity"; but of the recognition of gay marriage and "marital rights" in a state that does not recognize gay marriage.

That being said, your testimony against your spouse (or me as these posts are playing out) would be a total pipe dream on your part as I would have to WAIVE my "spousal immunity right" and there is about as chance of that happening as you ladies waiving your "community property" rights in a divorce case.

Or better yet, place yourself in the defendants seat - under the right circumstances, any one is capable of murder - and then tell me how you would feel about "spousal immunity".

Based upon what I've read in this Post - without knowing all of the facts in this case - and based on 18 years of Crime Scene Investigative experience, the defendant is GUILTY OF MURDER and the Prosecutor should have enough evidence to convict without spousal testimony. If not, the case should not have been filed and brought to trail. Don and I CAN! :-))

Lynnl C.
Lynn C4 years ago


Don Swanz
Don Swanz4 years ago


My bride and I watch just two (2) reality shows: Master Chef and Hell's Kitchen. I will not go into why we watch these two (2) shows at this time. I'll save that for another day.

In any case, we watched the first show of "Master Chef: Junior Edition" and were continuously amazed and absolutely and totally blown away by the talent and abilities exhibited by the 8 to 13 year old participants.

How about cooking calamari, molten lava cake, pasta, ravioli - to name a few of the dishes that were prepared - all from scratch and in an hour.

In any case, if you as parents, grand parents, great grand parents or aunts and uncles have any little ones who are interested in cooking; then this is not only the show for you; but an absolute must for the little ones. And, if you don't have any little ones, you should watch it any way.

You will not be disappointed.

Don ​and I CAN!​ :-))

pam w.
pam w4 years ago

I'm sorry these women are caught up in a legal mess, but...if, in fact, Kentucky doesn't recognize same-sex marriage, we can see the problem. This points out WHY we need a Federal law extending marriage benefits to everyone who seeks them.

Linda McKellar
Past Member 4 years ago

Why doesn't Kentucky recognize gay marriage? They recognize marriage between siblings and cousins don't they?

Don Swanz
Don Swanz4 years ago

MICHAEL W: Don't we live in an absolutely wonderful country, with a one (1) of a kind Constitution? Apparently you are neither happy or satisfied with it. For starters, I suggest that you move to North Korea or Iran if that is the form of government that you desire. Don and I CAN! :-))

Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.