Gay minister’s trespassing trial begins

A jury in Louisville, Ky., is scheduled to hear a case about an activist Baptist minister and his partner arrested for protesting the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

By Bob Allen

The trial for an openly gay ordained Baptist minister and his partner arrested in January for refusing to leave a government building where they were denied a marriage license begins today in Louisville, Ky.

Pretrial hearings were scheduled at 9 a.m. Monday in Jefferson County District Court for Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard, a member of Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., and his partner, Dominique James.

Bojangles-BlanchardBoth men are charged with third-degree criminal trespassing, which carries a maximum penalty of a $250 fine.

Blanchard said the trial is expected to last two or possibly three days and will be heard by a six-person jury.

“We are hoping the judge will allow us to share the reasoning of why we entered the clerk's office,” Blanchard said in an e-mail Friday.

In April, the Jefferson County Attorney's Office decided not to file a motion to ban any mention of gay marriage in the trespassing trial. Prosecutors declined to comment to local media about the reason.

Blanchard and James were arrested Jan. 22 for refusing to leave the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office after they were denied a marriage license.

Their protest, described beforehand as an act of “nonviolent resistance to bring about social change,” was aimed at a Kentucky law banning same-sex marriage and a 2004 constitutional amendment limiting legal marriages to those “between one man and one woman.”

“Praise God for the opportunity to witness to inclusive love,” Blanchard tweeted from the Louisville Metro Jail House following his arrest.

Blanchard and James, who had been partners for six years, said the reason they didn’t just wed in one of the 10 states where gay marriage is legal is because they believe they should be able to get married in Kentucky.

“As a minister and as people of faith, we have to give witness to the fact that this is an unjust law and that it's discrimination,” Blanchard told MSNBC in January. “And if we don't act, then we're accomplices to our own discrimination.”

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