PAY UP

Gay Kentucky Couple Fined $0.01 For Staging Marriage Protest

A gay couple in Kentucky have been fined one penny — yes, a single cent — for refusing to leave a Jefferson County clerk’s office after closing time.

According to a report in the Courier-Journal, Dominique James and the Rev. Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard (pictured) refused to leave the county clerk’s office after its 5 p.m. closing time on January 22 when they were denied a marriage license. As a result, they were arrested and booked into a local jail. They were later charged with trespassing.

Blanchard and James were initially offered a plea deal that would have dropped the charges in exchange for five hours of community service. The men turned the deal down, claiming they did not believe they had done anything wrong. After three hours of testimony Tuesday, they were found guilty of breaking the law and fined.

And that’s when things took an interesting turn.

The maximum fine the men faced was $250. Judge Sheila Collins presided over the case. According to the newspaper, the jury sent her note asking if they could convict James and Blanchard without imposing any fine. She informed them that the law required they fine the defendants something.

After a 90 minute deliberation, the jury decided on $0.01.

Collins then discharged the fine and waived the men’s court fees, crediting them for the time they served in jail after their arrest.

James and Blanchard met nine years ago at a cookout. They say they wanted to get married so they could adopt a child together. Even though they were found “guilty” in court, they view yesterday’s ruling as a victory. When asked about the $0.01 fine imposed by the jury, Blanchard said: “It shows they understood what we were doing.”

Same-sex marriage is currently illegal in the state of Kentucky. A constitutional amendment that defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman was adopted by voters in 2004. Perhaps the jury’s decision yesterday is a sign that tides are shifting in the Bluegrass State.