Taxpayers in Kentucky must pay more than $220,000 in attorney fees for the couples who sued Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis for refusing to issue marriage licenses to avoid having to give them to same-sex couples.
In July 2015, four couples — two same-sex and two opposite-sex — represented by the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against Davis.
“Davis represented the Commonwealth of Kentucky when she refused to issue marriage licenses to legally eligible couples. The buck stops there,” U.S. District Judge David Bunning wrote Friday.
Bunning said the county and Davis herself were not responsible for paying the $222,695 in attorneys’ fees.
Kentucky Public Radio’s Ryland Barton explains to our Newscast unit, “The court said the state should be held responsible because Kentucky officials had the right to take action against Davis, but didn’t.”
On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. But Davis, citing her religious beliefs, refused to comply, even spending a brief stint in jail for contempt of court. Bunning was the judge who ordered Davis jailed for five days.
The case grabbed national headlines. Davis met with Republican candidates for president and even with the pope.
By December 2015, Gov. Matthew Bevin ordered that Kentucky marriage licenses need not be printed with the name of the county clerk who issued them. That appeared to settle the issue for Davis, who proceeded to issue marriage licenses without her name.
Davis’ attorney says his client will appeal Friday’s ruling, according to The Association Press.
“The judge ruled Davis lost the case. Attorney Mat Staver said they did not lose. He said the case was dismissed as moot after the state legislature changed the law in 2016 to remove the names of county clerks from marriage licenses.”
William Sharp, legal director of the ACLU of Kentucky, said in a statement, “We are pleased with today’s ruling, and we hope this serves as a reminder to Kentucky officials that willful violations of individuals’ civil liberties, such as what occurred here, will not only be challenged but will also prove costly.”
The Lexington Herald Ledger reports that the state has not decided whether it will appeal.