Former County Clerk Kim Davis could pay as much as $225,000 in legal fees for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples due to her own religious beliefs, the Lexington Herald Leader reports. Lawyers for Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin have indicated that Davis should be responsible for the fees and court costs paid by multiple couples who sued her in 2015 following her refusal to issue them marriage licenses.
Despite the Republican governor’s past praise for Davis, Bevin’s legal team are now indicating that Davis failed to do her job in the wake of the 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage. At issue now is their contention that Davis personally, not the state of Kentucky, should be responsible for those fees.
“Her local policy stood in direct conflict with her statutory obligation to issue marriage licenses to qualified Kentucky couples. The local policy also undermined the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s interest in upholding the rule of law,” read a court brief submitted by Palmer G. Vance II, attorney for the governor.
Steve Pitt, general counsel for the governor, likewise contended that Davis should pay personally.
“Regardless, the federal court has held that she violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights and that the state must pay to the ACLU legal fees incurred as a result,” Pitt said. “If constitutional rights were violated, the taxpayers of Kentucky are not responsible to pay the ACLU’s attorney fees.”
The ACLU stepped in on behalf of the eight plaintiffs in the case in order to cover legal costs and coordinate the litigation. The plaintiffs included April Miller, Karen Ann Roberts, Shantel Burke, Stephen Napier, Jody Fernandez, Kevin Holloway, L. Aaron Skaggs, and Barry W. Spartman.
The legal challenge began when Davis cited her personal objections to same-sex marriage as her reason for refusing to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples from her office. Her act of defiance made her a hero to many conservatives, earning her accolades and endorsements from not only her own governor, but national figures as well, including former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
In the course of the legal battle that would follow, Davis spent time in jail for contempt of court as ruled by District Judge David Bunning. The matter was eventually resolved to some extent through a compromise in which a deputy would process marriage certificates on behalf of the office.