Just as many suspected, Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis’s stand against marriage equality is probably going to cost her county a lot of money.
This Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky filed a lawsuit in federal court looking to recover $233,058 in legal fees, all associated with the lawsuit the ACLU brought on behalf of gay couples when Davis started denying marriage licenses in Rowan County – an illegal act considering that the Supreme Court had already ruled gay marriage to be the law of the land.
Although Davis is named in the lawsuit, the motion “does not call for Davis to personally pay the fees,” according to an ACLU spokesperson.
In a press release, the ACLU said that the organization aims “to send a message to government officials that willful violations of individuals’ rights will be costly.”
“It is unfortunate that an elected official sought to use her office to withhold government services on the basis of her religious beliefs,” ACLU of Kentucky executive director Michael Aldridge said. “And it is equally regrettable that the county may now have to pay for her misuse of that office and her refusal to comply with the court’s orders.”
Davis began refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples shortly after SCOTUS’s marriage equality ruling, saying that they conflicted with her Christian beliefs. After U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered her to comply with the law and resume issuing licenses, she still refused, prompting Bunning to find her in contempt of court. She spent five days in jail last fall as a result.
The suits that were brought against Davis were eventually dismissed “in view of the fact that the marriage licenses continue to be issued without incident, there no longer remains a case or controversy before the Court,” Bunning wrote.
From The Advocate:
But the fact that marriage licenses are being issued without discrimination means the ACLU and its clients prevailed, therefore entitling the organization to recoup the costs, ACLU officials said.
“Courts recognize that when successful civil rights plaintiffs obtain a direct benefit from a court-ordered victory, such as in this case, they can be entitled to their legal expenses to deter future civil rights violations by government officials,” Sharp said in the ACLU of Kentucky’s release.
But according to Davis’s lawyer Mat Staver of the far-right legal group the Liberty Counsel, Davis is the real winner here.
“County clerks are now able to perform their public service without being forced to compromise their religious liberty,” he said in a press release. “The case is now closed and the door has been shut on the ACLU’s attempt to assess damages against Kim Davis.”