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The Rev. Bojangles Blanchard: Hopeful Sit-In, Arrest Inspire Calls for Change in Gay Marriage Ban

The Rev. Maurice "Bojangles" Blanchard spent Tuesday evening in jail.The charge? He and his partner, Dominique James, asked for a marriage license — and were denied —  at the Jefferson County Clerk's Office in downtown Louisville."We were told by the manager of the office that she was unable to provide that for us," Blanchard said in an interview Wednesday with WFPL"She said, 'I can't provide you with that, I'm sorry.' I said, 'Why?' And she said, 'Because the state of Kentucky does not allow same-sex marriages. That was our reply."Blanchard, a Baptist minister, and James staged a sit-in and refused to leave as the office closed. Louisville Metro Police charged each man with third-degree trespassing, arrest report said. They were taken to Louisville Metro Corrections and released a few hours later. Third-degree trespassing is typically penalized with a fine.The arrest followed a demonstration at the clerk's office against Kentucky's ban on the marriage of gay and lesbian couples — "giving physical witness to the fact that we won't stand for a discriminatory law," Blanchard said. On Wednesday, Blanchard said he's optimistic Kentucky will someday allow for gay marriage — they he said it'll take time — and he's vowed for more activism to push the cause forward. "It was very important that we did this yesterday after the inauguration of President Obama for the second time, MLK Day and then as a signal in the first month of the year that people across this nation who value civil rights are going to let their voices be heard when the Supreme Court looks at this case in March," Blanchard said. "We want those witnesses, the acts of people of goodwill, to reach those halls of justice and hopefully bring about change and equality."Blanchard is pastor of True Colors, an outreach ministry for the LGBTQ community and their allies based at Highland Baptist Church. Blanchard and James were married in the Unitarian Church — but, of course, it's not recognized by the state.

The religious marriage is significant, but Blanchard said the rights that come with state recognition should not be denied to gay couples. That's why he and James applied for a marriage license."This is not just a piece of paper that you get signed by the preacher when you get married," he said. "You get a lot of protection that comes with that. And that's what we're fighting for — not the validity of our love, but our right."Blanchard said he'll do more activism for the gay marriage cause in the future, though he couldn't say specifically what form it'd be.However it happens, Blanchard said his arrest Tuesday won't be for nothing. He's optimistic that someday, Kentucky will make legal the spiritual marriage he already has with James."I know it's going to take time, especially in the South," Blanchard said. "But I am optimistic that people of goodwill will hopefully be inspired by things like yesterday and other events across the nation and stand up and let the legislature know we're not going to stand for discrimination against anybody, even if they're different than us."

Joseph Lord is the online managing editor for WFPL.

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