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Ex-clerk who denied same-sex marriage licenses told to pay $360,000

A Kentucky judge ordered Kim Davis to pay legal fees and damages for refusing to issue the licenses after same-sex marriages became legal in 2015.
Ex-clerk who denied same-sex marriage licenses told to pay $360,000
Posted at 5:33 AM, Jan 03, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-03 07:46:47-05

Former Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, known for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples back in 2015, now faces a payment of more than $360,000, according to a ruling by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning of the Eastern District of Kentucky ruled that Davis must pay $260.084.70 in fees and expenses to attorneys who represented a same-sex couple. The judgment also includes $100,000 in damages a jury said she should pay to a same-sex couple ($50,000 for each individual) after a federal judge ruled their constitutional rights were violated.

Shortly after the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court ruling granted same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide, David Ermold and David Moore tried to get a marriage license when Davis was the Rowan County clerk. Davis refused and said she wouldn't do it because it was a violation of her religious rights. The story gained national attention and led to lawsuits against her, with a judge later ordering Davis to issue the licenses. 

She spent five days in jail for being found in contempt of court after refusing to do so.

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Davis had argued that a legal doctrine called qualified immunity shielded her from being held liable. The plaintiffs argued that Davis had violated their constitutional rights, and their right to marry was clearly established at the time of Davis' actions, and therefore, Davis was not entitled to qualified immunity.

The court said her decision not to issue marriage licenses "further illustrates that she knowingly violated the law." The ruling also states, "Davis 'chose to stand for what [she] believe[s] in over what was contrary to that' — the law."

The Liberty Counsel, who represents Davis, said it will appeal the case to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

"The finding of liability and the Ermold damages jury verdict are unsound and easily set up this case on an eventual route to the U.S. Supreme Court, where religious freedom will be central to the argument along with the issue that the 2015 case of Obergefell v. Hodges was wrongly decided and should be overturned," the Liberty Counsel says in a statement.

Davis, a Republican, ultimately lost her bid for reelection in 2018. Democrat Elwood Caudill Jr. is now the county's clerk.

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This article was originally published by Jordan Mickle for Scripps News Lexington. 


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