Court Battles

Court rules Kentucky clerk who refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses can be sued

A federal appeals court has ruled that Kim Davis, the former county clerk who rose to prominence after she refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses in 2015, can be sued for damages by two of the couples who were denied licenses.

According to Reuters, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati decided in a 3-0 ruling on Friday that the two couples – David Ermold and David Moore, and Will Smith and James Yates –  could not sue Davis in her former capacity as a county clerk, but could sue Davis for damages as an individual.

Davis, who cited religious objections in denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples, argued that she had not been acting in violation of the Obergefell v Hodges Supreme Court decision awarding gay couples the right to marry because she had also been refusing to issue licenses to other couples as well.{mosads}

However, Circuit Judge Richard Griffin wrote in his opinion Friday that “in short, plaintiffs pleaded a violation of their right to marry: a right the Supreme Court clearly established in Obergefell.”

“The district court therefore correctly denied qualified immunity to Davis,” he added.

After Davis denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples following the Supreme Court ruling, she was sued by several couples and ordered by a judge to issue the licenses. She was jailed not long after for refusing to comply with the ruling.

Lawmakers in Kentucky later changed the law in response to her refusal to allow marriage licenses to be issued without clerks having to sign their names on the documents.

Davis has since retired after losing her bid for reelection last year, Reuters reported.

“At the end of the day, she will ultimately prevail. She had no hostility to anyone, given that she stopped issuing all marriage licenses,” Mat Staver, the founder of Liberty Counsel, a group that represented Davis, told the outlet.

“The broader issue is what accommodation a court should provide someone based on their religious beliefs,” he added. “It’s a matter of time before such a case goes squarely before the Supreme Court.”


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