A court has ordered former Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis to pay $100,000 to a gay same-sex couple because she refused to issue a marriage license to them. Her lawyers plan to appeal the decision.
Davis, a conservative Christian who has been married four times, refused to provide marriage licenses to gay couples in 2015 after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. Davis told the couple in question that she was acting “under God’s authority” when she refused to issue the license because she believes marriage is only between a man and a woman.
A jury in Ashland, Kentucky awarded David Ermold and David Moore $50,000 each on Wednesday, ABC News reported. Davis claimed she had qualified immunity, a legal protection that shields government officials from personal liability for violating someone’s rights.
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However, in 2022, U.S. District Judge David Bunning ruled that Davis “cannot use her own constitutional rights [to religious freedom] as a shield to violate the constitutional rights of others while performing her duties as an elected official.”
Davis or someone in her office denied marriage licenses multiple times to at least two same-sex couples. Eventually, the couples received them from a deputy clerk while Davis was jailed for five days for contempt of court. She was released when her staff issued the licenses on her behalf with Davis’ name removed from the documents. Shortly thereafter, Kentucky’s state legislature passed a law removing county clerks’ names from state marriage licenses altogether.
Nevertheless, Ermold and Moore, along with James Yates and Will Smith, sued Davis for the “mental anguish, emotional distress, humiliation and reputation damages” she caused.
Initially, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) praised Davis as “an inspiration… to the children of America,” but when the court said the state government would have to pay for her legal fees, Bevin appealed to get Davis to pay the fees instead.
Davis — who was pregnant by her third husband while still married to her first — was represented by the anti-LGBTQ Liberty Counsel, a Southern Poverty Law Center designated hate group that opposes any expansion of LGBTQ+ civil rights.
Liberty Counsel Chair Mat Staver said that his organization will “look forward to appealing this decision and taking this case to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
In 2015, the Liberty Counsel breathlessly announced that Davis had met with Pope Francis during his visit to the United States to discuss religious freedom, a claim the Vatican quickly debunked. The Pope did not know who Davis was when an Archbishop snuck her into a private reception. The Archbishop was later replaced and the Vatican issued a strong response to clarify the meeting was not a show of support for Davis.
Correction (9/15/2023): The original headline and opening paragraph for this article listed an incorrect monetary amount.