Kim Davis (Pic: Rowan County Sheriff’s office)
A US court has ordered the state of Kentucky to pay the legal costs associated with infamous Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis and her refusal to marry same-sex couples.
On Friday, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati upheld a 2017 lower court ruling awarding $224,000 in attorney’s fees and costs to the couples who were refused marriage licenses by Davis.
Davis made international headlines in 2015 following the US Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling. She refused to issue marriage licenses because of her personal, religious beliefs.
Davis went on to defy orders requiring her to resume issuing marriage licenses and was sent to jail for five days for contempt of court. She quickly became a poster child for the so-called “religious freedom” movement but was eventually voted out of office.
Davis was initially praised as “an inspiration“ by Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin but when she was found in the wrong by the courts, the state distanced itself from her legal bill and insisted that she was personally liable. The courts have disagreed.
“The Court of Appeals correctly found that… ACLU clients prevailed by forcing the former Clerk to abandon her unlawful policy of withholding marriage licenses from the public,” said William E. Sharp, an attorney for the ACLU of Kentucky, which represented the couples
“By affirming the sizeable 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,” said Sharp.
In a further blow to religious bigots, the court also ruled in a separate decision that Davis herself can be personally sued as an individual for damages by two of the same-sex couples whom she declined to serve.
“Kim Davis was an outlier who has been replaced by Kentucky voters. Today’s decision brings another form of vindication for the Rowan County couples who continued the good fight long after marriage equality became the law of the land,” said Ria Tabacco Mar, senior staff attorney for the ACLU.