Randy Slovacek's picture

Kim Davis May Have To Pay $222K For Denying Gay Couples Marriage Licenses

Back in 2015, then-candidate for Kentucky governor Matt Bevin was proud to announce he “absolutely supported” Kim Davis, the infamous county clerk who denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Even though the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that marriage equality had become the law of the land, Davis refused to issue the licenses citing her deeply-held religious beliefs. 

It’s important to note that those ‘deeply-held religious beliefs’ about the sanctity of marriage didn’t stop her from marrying three different men four times, so, there’s that.

At the time, the state required the name of the county clerk to appear on each marriage license, and Davis saw that as tacit endorsement of same-sex marriage. Digging in her heels, she stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether.

Gay and straight couples, now unable to marry, sued Davis with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. The result was a federal judge ordering Davis to issue the licenses, but she still refused.

And so it was that the judge found her in contempt of court, and she was jailed for five days making her the darling of the anti-LGBT crowd.

The eventual solution was the Kentucky legislature changing state law that required county clerks names on marriage licenses. The gay and straight couples were issued marriage licenses, and the lawsuit against Davis was dismissed in that the issue had been resolved. 

Davis went on to write a book, campaigned for a failed same-sex marriage ban in Romania, and then, this past November was voted out of office.

But this sad tale isn’t quite done, yet. There is, as they say, the issue of the bill.

In 2017, a district judge ruled that the state of Kentucky had to pay the $222,000 legal costs of the gay and straight couples who had brought the lawsuit against Davis.

According to the Associated Press, lawyers for now-Governor Matt Bevin say state taxpayers "should not have to collectively bear the financial responsibility for Davis' intransigence."

"Only Davis refused to comply with the law as was her obligation and as required by the oath of office she took," Bevin attorney Palmer G. Vance II wrote in a brief filed with the court.

“Her local policy stood in direct conflict with her statutory obligation to issue marriage licenses to qualified Kentucky couples,” continued Vance in the brief. “Davis had an independent and sworn duty to uphold the law as an elected county officer.”

For clarity, both Bevins and Davis believe that the court should not award legal fees saying the gay and straight couples didn’t technically ‘win’ the lawsuit since it was dismissed after the legislative action.

Steve Pitt, an in-house lawyer for the governor, says Bevins “continues to support Ms. Davis’s actions,” but if legal fees are to be awarded, “the taxpayers of Kentucky are not responsible to pay the ACLU’s attorney fees.”

Davis’s lawyer, Mat Staver of the virulently anti-LGBT organization Liberty Counsel, which has been labeled an ‘extremist group’ by the Southern Poverty Law Center, argues that Davis was acting on behalf of the state.

Since Bevins appealed the initial ruling regarding court costs, the two sides will face off Thursday at the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati where a three-judge panel will hear arguments on who should pay the legal fees.

(h/t Associated Press, Kentucky.com)