Kentucky employee Kim Davis must pay $260,000 for same-sex marriage licenses

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Nearly eight years after a former county clerk refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Kentucky, she must now pay $260,000 in fees and expenses to attorneys who represented one of the couples, a federal judge ruled.

The ruling that circulated through the court system Tuesday is separate from a jury’s earlier decision that Kim Davis must pay $100,000 in damages to the couple, David Ermold and David Moore.

The judge’s decision is the latest result of litigation that began in 2015 after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex couples have the same right to marry as heterosexual couples. The case took years to resolve, as Davis appealed many of the previous decisions.

Davis’ attorneys had argued that the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees should be cut by more than half, according to U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning’s ruling. However, Bunning said the fees charged were reasonable given that the plaintiffs prevailed after they attempted to vindicate their fundamental right to marry and obtain marriage licenses.

“Where a plaintiff has obtained excellent results, his attorney should recover a fully compensatory fee,” Bunning wrote.

Joseph Buckles, one of the attorneys representing the couple, told the Washington Post that he was glad the judge didn’t reduce the fees a single cent, but added that he found the latest ruling “bittersweet.”

“All of this came at a cost to my clients,” he said. “Their lives were put under a microscope, every detail about them was brought to court. “They became celebrities for a cause they never chose.”

Liberty Counsel, a religious liberty organization that represented Davis, said Wednesday it would appeal the case, including damages and attorney fees and costs.

“On appeal, we will not only ask that the jury’s verdict be set aside due to a lack of evidence supporting a claim for damages, but we will also argue that Kim Davis is protected by the Freedom from Religion Clause of the First Amendment. “said Mathew D. Staver. the founder and president of Liberty Counsel, in a statement. “And we will argue that the 2015 case of Obergefell v. Hodges must be annulled. Only two of the original five judges remain on the bench. Chief Justice John Roberts filed a strong dissent in the case, along with Thomas and Alito. Obergefell “It is on very delicate ground and lacks any precedent or legal basis.”

Faced with the possibility of arrest in September 2015, Rowan County, Kentucky, Clerk Kim Davis vowed to continue denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (Video: Reuters)

Davis was 49 years old and chief clerk of Rowan County in June 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled that gay couples had a constitutional right to marry. She asked to be excused from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples because, as an evangelical Christian, same-sex marriage violated her religious beliefs, The Post previously reported. reported.

In July 2015, a video of her refusing to issue a marriage license to Ermold and Moore went viral, making her the most well-known of several clerks across the country who rejected the Supreme Court ruling.

She was thrust into the national spotlight as some parts of the country hailed her as a hero for sticking to her principles, while others criticized her for disrespecting the law.

Her defiance of a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples led to her being jailed for five days in September 2015.

“I pay your salary,” Moore can be seen insisting in a September 2015 video at the Rowan County office, as he leans over Davis’ desk. “I pay you to discriminate against me right now, that’s what I’m paying for.”

“Do your job,” someone in the crowd shouted. As the argument became more heated, Davis retreats to his office and closes the door.

Davis also prohibited his employees from issuing the licenses, but eventually one of his deputies, Brian Mason, began doing so anyway, The Post previously reported. reported.

Ermold, Moore and others sued Davis in 2015.

From the beginning, Davis has been represented by Liberty Counsel, which provides free legal assistance to “promote religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the family,” according to its website. Davis issued a statement in 2015 explaining that his refusal to authorize same-sex marriage is “a decision from Heaven or Hell.”

In March 2022, Bunning ruled that Davis had violated the rights of two couples and that his religious beliefs did not justify his refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In his ruling, Bunning wrote that the long and winding litigation of this case involved extensive discovery, multiple motions, four appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, a petition to the Supreme Court, and a jury trial of three days. racking up legal fees that the couple should be reimbursed.

Buckles said she has no doubt that Davis will appeal and that she has the right to do so.

“Kim Davis completely violated his constitutional rights and then wrote a book about it,” he said. “And yet this case could still continue.”

Buckles said his clients were exhausted by the years-long litigation and that, while “they are delighted with the results and have renewed their faith in the justice system, even the latest ruling does not erase the last 8 years of their lives.”

Sarah Kaplan, James Higdon, and Eli Rosenberg contributed to this report.

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