Remember Kim Davis? Kentucky Finally Has To Pay $225,000 Because She Refused Same-Sex Marriage Licenses.
August 26th 2019
By Marissa Higgins
Remember Kim Davis? The Rowan County Clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses because she opposed same-sex marriage? She became something of a conservative icon back in 2015, especially after she went to jail for a few days for contempt. Davis, who lost her reelection bid as Rowan County Clerk is now retired, and the couples involved are now married. But for Kentucky, this ordeal is far from over. In fact, Kentucky now owes a pretty $225,000 because of Davis refusing to issue marriage licenses.
As a quick review of what went on, Davis refused to issue marriage licenses because same-sex marriage went against her religious beliefs—and, by the way, told her deputies not to issue them either. Her argument was that she was not in violation of Obergefell v Hodges (the Supreme Court cases that recognized the constitutional right to same-sex marriage) because she decided to stop issuing marriage licenses to everybody because of her religious beliefs. What could couples trying to get married do? According to Davis, go somewhere else.
Apparently, it didn’t occur to Davis that deciding to stop performing a component of her job was a problem. And that it wasn’t a mask for the homophobia behind the decision, either.
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The $225,00 total accounts for legal fees and court costs occurred by eight people (April Miller, Karen Ann Roberts, Shantel Burke, Stephen Napier, Jody Fernandez, Kevin Holloway, L. Aaron Skaggs, and Barry W. Spartman) who sued Davis for refusing to issue their marriage licenses. The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled in favor of the couples on Friday. Notably, this ruling upheld that of a federal district judge who already told the state to pay the fees.
“By affirming the sizable fee award, the court also sent a strong message to other government officials in Kentucky that it is not only unconstitutional to use public office to impose one’s personal religious views on others, but that it also can be a very expensive mistake,” William Sharp, an attorney for the ACLU of Kentucky, said.
“[The couples] prevailed against her in her capacity as a state official, not a county one,” U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Allen Griffin wrote. “Because Davis acted on Kentucky’s behalf when issuing and refusing to issue marriage licenses, the district court correctly imposed liability for the award on the commonwealth.”
In layman’s terms, this means that because the state of Kentucky regulates the administration of marriage licenses (and this was explicitly part of her job), the state is responsible for her conduct.
Now, here’s an important layer. The 6th District also ruled that Davis had sovereign immunity as a public official, but not as an individual. This means that it’s possible for another impacted couple, David Ermold and David Moore, to sue Davis personally, aside from just holding the state of Kentucky responsible. Basically, while she had immunity as a public official, she doesn’t have it as an individual person.
This aspect of the case hasn’t been awarded any money yet.
“Regarding Kim Davis, this case is not over,” said Mat Staver, an attorney with Liberty Counsel.
Homophobia is pretty costly, huh?
Posted with permission