A federal court of appeals has ruled yet again that former Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis – who refused to provide marriage licenses to gay couples after marriage equality was legalized – does not have qualified immunity.
Qualified immunity protects government officials from personal liability for violating someone’s rights, unless they are in violation of “clearly established” constitutional rights, as the Supreme Court case of Harlow v. Fitzgerald decided in 1982.
Davis already lost her plea for qualified immunity in the case several years ago. The most recent opinion stated that because the plaintiffs proved that Davis “violated their clearly established right to marry,” the ruling that says she is not entitled to qualified immunity stands.
The court affirmed that “the basic facts of this case have not changed” and that “we again affirm the district court” in deciding that “Davis is still not entitled to qualified immunity.”
Davis’s refusal to grant the marriage licenses took place back in 2015 after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges. She said she was acting “under God’s authority.”
Davis or someone in her office denied both couples licenses multiple times. Eventually, they received them from a deputy clerk while Davis was jailed for five days for contempt of court.
David Ermold and David Moore, along with James Yates and Will Smith, sued Davis for the “mental anguish, emotional distress, humiliation and reputation damages” she caused.
In March, a judge ruled that Davis violated their constitutional rights and that a jury trial could take place to determine damages.
Davis is represented by the anti-LGBTQ Liberty Counsel, a Southern Poverty Law Center designated hate group that has argued Davis is not responsible for damages due to religious exemptions.