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Kim Davis Might Have to Pay Damages to Gay Couples in Marriage License Case

Kim Davis Might Have to Pay Damages to Gay Couples in Marriage License Case

Jury to Decide Kim Davis Damages in Marriage License Case

She refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples; a jury will decide how much she owes those couples.

A federal jury is deliberating whether Kim Davis, the former Kentucky county clerk who served five days in jail for her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, should pay damages to two of those couples.

Couples David Ermold and David Moore, and James Yates and William Smith, sued Davis after she repeatedly refused to issue them marriage licenses as the clerk of Rowan County beginning in 2015. The four men are seeking punitive and compensatory damages.

In March of last year, a federal judge ruled in their favor, saying Davis had violated their constitutional rights.

“Davis cannot use her own constitutional rights as a shield to violate the constitutional rights of others while performing her duties as an elected official,” U.S. District Judge David Bunning wrote in his decision.

Davis appealed the ruling to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, but it was denied and sent back to Bunning and a jury to decide what, if any, damages are owed by Davis.

Following the Obergefell v. Hodges U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2015 recognizing marriage equality, Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, saying it would violate her protected religious beliefs. Indeed, she shut down all marriage license operations in her office to avoid serving same-sex couples.

Yates and Smith were denied a license five times by Davis. Ermold and Moore were denied three times. On their last attempt, Davis said she was acting “under God's authority” in denying the license, according to court records.

A deputy clerk issued the licenses after Davis was sent to jail for her actions.

Mathew Staver, an attorney for Davis, told Law & Crime the plaintiffs were not entitled to any compensation since they could have obtained a marriage license from any of the available clerks who worked with Davis. He also attacked the Oberfegell v. Hodges decision.

“Kim Davis was entitled to a religious accommodation like the one she received from Gov. Matt Bevin and a unanimous legislature that passed a law accommodating all clerks,” Staver told Law & Crime via email on Tuesday. “This case is destined for the U.S. Supreme Court where we will seek religious freedom for all and ask the Court to overrule the wrongly decided case of Obergefell v. Hodges.”

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