Court Battles

Supreme Court rejects bid by ex-Kentucky clerk who defied gay marriage ruling to block lawsuit

The Supreme Court on Monday allowed a lawsuit to proceed against Kim Davis, a former Kentucky county clerk who gained national attention in 2015 for her refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples despite the high court’s decision legalizing same-sex unions across the country.

The justices denied an appeal from Davis, a devout Christian who spent five days in jail for her refusal to abide by the court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges on the grounds that doing so would have violated her religious beliefs.

Davis is being sued in her personal capacity by two gay couples who allege she violated their constitutional right to marry. The court on Monday rebuffed Davis’s claim that she should be shielded from personal liability.

The court’s two most conservative members, Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, used the opportunity to reiterate their criticism of the 5-4 decision in Obergefell, which they dissented from in 2015 along with Chief Justice John Roberts and the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Thomas, joined by Alito, wrote that while he agreed with the denial of Davis’s petition, her case was a reminder of how the court’s landmark same-sex marriage ruling had placed religious liberty in jeopardy.

“As a result of this Court’s alteration of the Constitution, Davis found herself faced with a choice between her religious beliefs and her job,” Thomas wrote. “When she chose to follow her faith, and without any statutory protection of her religious beliefs, she was sued almost immediately for violating the constitutional rights of same-sex couples.”

“Davis may have been one of the first victims of this Court’s cavalier treatment of religion in its Obergefell decision,” he continued, “but she will not be the last.”

— Updated at 12:16 p.m.

Tags Clarence Thomas Gay Marriage Kim Davis Obergefell v. Hodges Samuel Alito Supreme Court
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