State Watch

Judge finds that ex-county clerk Kim Davis violated same-sex couples’ constitutional rights

A Kentucky federal judge on Friday ruled that former county clerk Kim Davis violated two gay couples’ constitutional rights when she repeatedly denied them a marriage license.

U.S. Judge David Bunning in the Eastern District of Kentucky found Davis guilty of violating the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs in the case, David Ermold and David Moore, and James Yates and Will Smith, according to the court document. The matter will likely go to trial to determine the damages.

In his ruling, Bunning said Davis purposely evaded the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage in the U.S.

“It is readily apparent that Obergefell recognizes Plaintiffs’ Fourteenth Amendment right to marry. It is also readily apparent that Davis made a conscious decision to violate Plaintiffs’ right,” Bunning wrote. 

In a Friday statement, Liberty Counsel, which is representing Davis, said they will argue in court that their client is not responsible for damages, saying Kentucky allows clerks to opt out of issuing hunting and fishing licenses and the state passed a law allowing for a religious exemption in the issuance of marriage licenses.

“Kim Davis is entitled to protection to an accommodation based on her sincere religious belief,” Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said in a statement. “This case raises serious First Amendment free exercise of religion claims and has a high potential of reaching the Supreme Court.”

In July 2015, after the Supreme Court ruling, Davis denied Ermold and Moore a marriage license “under God’s authority,” according to the court document. The couple were denied two more times.

Yates and Smith were denied a marriage license five times.

Both couples were finally awarded a license after Davis was jailed under contempt of court.

Michael Gartland, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told WKYT his clients “could not be more happy” with Friday’s ruling.

“As the court notes in the decision, this case has been pending since 2015. They couldn’t be more happy that they’re finally going to get their day in court and they’re confident justice will be served,” he told the outlet.

Tags David Ernmold David Moore Kentucky Kim Davis marriage license Rowan County same-sex marriage

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