Kim Davis Faces $260,000 Penalty for Denying Same-Sex Marriage Licenses in 2015

Photo: Twitter Screenshot - Mike Sington

The United States District Judge David L. Bunning has ruled that former Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis must pay $260,000 in attorneys’ fees and other expenses for her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples back in 2015. 


The decision came as a result of a lawsuit filed by David Ermold and David Moore, a same-sex couple denied a marriage license by Davis.

Judge Bunning, who presided over the case, issued a memorandum opinion and order last week, directing Davis to pay $246,026.40 in attorneys’ fees and an additional $14,058.30 in other expenses. The ruling emphasized that the plaintiffs, Ermold and Moore, not only prevailed but successfully asserted their fundamental right to marry.

“The Court is mindful that in this case, Plaintiffs not only prevailed, but obtained the result sought. They sought to vindicate their fundamental right to marry and obtain marriage licenses, and they did so,” wrote Judge Bunning. He also deemed the hours expended and rates charged by the plaintiffs’ attorneys to be reasonable.

The Liberty Counsel, a conservative law firm representing Kim Davis, announced their intention to appeal the decision. They expressed readiness to take the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit if their appeal proves unsuccessful. The firm pointed out that in December 2015, then-Governor Matt Bevin issued an executive order providing religious exemptions to all clerks in the state, a move they believe should impact Davis’s case.

“This case is far from over,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of the Liberty Counsel. Staver asserted that, thanks to Kim Davis, clerks in Kentucky now have the freedom to serve as elected officials without compromising their religious convictions. He further stated that the case has the potential to extend religious freedom protections beyond Kentucky and challenge the precedent set by the Obergefell v. Hodges decision.

Kim Davis gained national attention in 2015 when, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage, she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Davis was briefly jailed for her refusal and later faced legal action from Ermold and Moore, leading to the recent ruling.

Last September, a federal jury awarded Ermold and Moore $50,000 each in damages, in addition to the $260,000 in fees and expenses ordered by Judge Bunning. Joe Buckles, one of the attorneys representing the couple, emphasized that the case was not about Davis’s religion or the right to marry but rather about a government official refusing to perform her job.

“The Supreme Court says that my clients have a constitutional right to marry under the 14th Amendment,” said Buckles. “But this case isn’t really about [Davis’s] religion. The case isn’t really about our clients’ right to marry. The case is about a government official that just refused to do her job. It’s a pretty simple case.”

As the legal proceedings continue, this case remains a focal point in the ongoing debate surrounding religious freedom, government officials’ responsibilities, and the rights of same-sex couples.

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