Kim Davis, who’s already lost her elected office as clerk of Rowan County, Ky., may soon have to pay an even bigger price for her antigay stances – about $225,000.
Lawyers for Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin say Davis should be held liable for the attorneys’ fees and court costs run up by the couples who sued her when she shut down all marriage license operations in the county rather than serve same-sex couples after the Supreme Court’s 2015 marriage equality ruling, the Lexington Herald Leader reports. The couples later sued for recovery of their costs.
The lawyers, who say Davis committed civil rights violations and failed to do her job, made that assertion in briefs filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. A three-judge panel of the court will hear oral arguments Thursday in the suit over who’s responsible for the couples’ costs.
A U.S. District Court ruled in 2017 that because the couples who sued won the case — Rowan County, through Davis’s deputies, began issuing marriage licenses without discrimination after she went to jail for disobeying a court order to do so — the state of Kentucky should cover the costs. Lawyers for Bevin have appealed the decision, contending that the couples did not necessarily prevail, and that even if the appeals court finds they did, Davis should be liable, not the state.
“Her local policy stood in direct conflict with her statutory obligation to issue marriage licenses to qualified Kentucky couples,” attorney Palmer G. Vance II wrote in one brief, according to the Herald Leader. “The local policy also undermined the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s interest in upholding the rule of law.”
The state is making the argument even though Bevin, a Republican, has often praised Davis and signed a bill into law changing marriage licenses so that county clerks’ names do not appear on them — a change Davis had supported to accommodate her religious beliefs against same-sex marriage. Bevin’s lawyers “are taking a more critical tone” than the governor did, the Herald Leader notes.
Both Rowan County and Davis have filed briefs with the appeals court saying they are not responsible for the costs. “Rowan County says it had no control over the policies of Davis, who was an independently elected official,” the Lexington paper reports. “Davis says her authority to issue marriage licenses came from the Commonwealth of Kentucky.” Any money awarded to cover the cost of the couples’ litigation should come from the state, wrote Roger K. Gannam, an attorney with the anti-LGBTQ group Liberty Counsel, representing Davis.
Davis, who changed her party affiliation from Democratic to Republican in 2015, lost her bid for reelection as county clerk last year to Democrat Elwood Caudill Jr.