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Judge: Kentucky Will Pay $224,000 In Fees In Kim Davis Case


Editors Note: The original AP story published was vague as to whom the money would be going. We have included a different version of the story that specifies to more detail. For the sake of understanding, here is the NPR variation and the memorandum opinion and order. The original story is also posted below. We apologize for any confusion.

Updated Story:

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’ refusal to issue marriage licenses during the summer of 2015 will cost Kentucky taxpayers $224,000. 

In a U.S. District Court ruling released Friday, Judge David Bunning awarded attorney fees and costs to the plaintiffs that were refused marriage licenses by Davis.

After the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made same-sex marriage legal in the country, Davis refused to issue marriage licenses. Citing her religious beliefs, she said she couldn’t in good conscience issue the licenses to same-sex couples, and also temporarily stopped issuing the licenses to straight couples, too.  While Davis received national attention and shook hands with Kentucky elected officials such as Gov. Matt Bevin, multiple appeals were filed and the law found her in contempt of her duties.

The Eastern District of Kentucky judge ruled that the state, and not exclusively Rowan County, would bear the brunt of the legal costs.

The ruling states that “when Davis made the unilateral decision to adopt a ‘no marriage licenses’ policy, she was acting as an agent of the Commonwealth, not Rowan County. Therefore, Rowan County is not liable for Davis’s actions or Plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees. Davis represented the Commonwealth of Kentucky when she refused to issue marriage licenses to legally eligible couples. The buck stops there.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky represented the four plaintiff couples—two of whom are straight and two same-sex.

“Whether you were a straight couple or a gay couple, she just wasn’t issuing them at all,” Amber Duke of the Kentucky ACLU said.  “I think the thought was at the time was that it somehow would not be discriminatory … not just excluding same-sex couples.”

Duke says the ACLU hopes Bunning’s ruling sends a clear message to Kentucky leaders, despite the cost to Kentucky taxpayers.

“We hope that it serves as a reminder to Kentucky officials that violating individual civil liberties, such as what happened in this case, are going to be challenged and they also prove to be costly,” Duke said.

The Rowan County Clerk’s Office did not respond for a request for comment Friday afternoon.

Original AP Story:

A federal judge has ordered Kentucky taxpayers to pay more than $220,000 in attorneys' fees for a county clerk who refused to issue marriage license to same-sex couples.

U.S. District Judge Jim Bunning says Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis was acting for the state government when she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on the basis of her personal religious beliefs.

He ordered the state to pay $222,695 in attorneys' fees and another $2,008 in costs. He said the county government and Davis herself are not liable.

Davis spent five days in jail for refusing a judge's order that she issue the licenses to gay couples shortly after a U.S. Supreme Court decision effectively legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

Kentucky's Republican governor signed a law last year that removed the names of clerks from state marriage licenses.

Matt Markgraf joined the WKMS team as a student in January 2007. He's served in a variety of roles over the years: as News Director March 2016-September 2019 and previously as the New Media & Promotions Coordinator beginning in 2011. Prior to that, he was a graduate and undergraduate assistant. He is currently the host of the international music show Imported on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.
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