In January of this year, attorneys for Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin argued that former Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis violated the civil rights of same-sex couples who she denied marriage licenses and owed the state $225,000 in legal fees. Davis made headlines in 2015 when she refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples when she was county clerk, saying to do so would violate her Christian beliefs. Davis’s actions came in spite of the fact that the Supreme Court had previously ruled gay marriage to be the law of the land.
Now, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the state of Kentucky must pay attorney’s fees to four couples who sued Davis for denying them their marriage licenses. The Court upheld a lower-court ruling awarding $224,000 in legal costs to the couples.
The ruling “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,” Ria Tabacco Mar, senior staff attorney for the ACLU, said in a statement according to the New York Daily News.
In 2017, a district court ruled that couples who were denied marriage licenses won their cases decisively and the state was obligated to reimburse their legal fees. But Bevin’s office appealed the ruling and said that the financial responsibility should fall solely on Davis.
“Her local policy stood in direct conflict with her statutory obligation to issue marriage licenses to qualified Kentucky couples. The local policy also undermined the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s interest in upholding the rule of law,” Bevin attorney Palmer G. Vance II stated according to the Lexington Herald Leader in January of 2019.
“Davis had an independent and sworn duty to uphold the law as an elected county officer,” Vance continued. “If fees are awarded, they must be the responsibility of the Rowan County clerk’s office, which should be deterred from engaging in conduct that violates civil rights — and leads to costly litigation.”
After the landmark 2015 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that guaranteed same-sex couples the right to marry, Davis refused to comply with the law and spent five nights in jail for contempt. She was defeated in her quest for reelection in 2018.
Featured image via screen grab/PBS NewsHour