Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who famously refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses, can be sued by two couples to whom she declined to issue the licenses, an appeals court has ruled.
As Reuters reports, two same-sex couples — David Ermold and David Moore, and Will Smith and James Yates — have sued Davis over her refusal to issue marriage licenses to them. The issue has been making its way through the courts. Earlier in the process, U.S. District Judge David Bunning in Covington, Kentucky, had ruled that Davis could be sued; Davis, through her attorney, appealed, and the case was heard by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
This week, the court ruled, in a 3-0 decision, that Davis can be sued. That sends the case back to Bunning; it remains unclear, as of this writing, when Bunning will hear arguments in the case again.
The ruling is narrow in the sense that it means that Davis can be sued personally. However, she cannot be sued in her professional capacity because she’s covered by the doctrine of sovereign immunity.
Back in 2015, the Supreme Court ruled, in the case of Obergefell v Hodges, that same-sex couples in all 50 states have the right to marry, a ruling that effectively forced county clerks across the country to issue marriage licenses to same-sex applicants.
Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused licenses for same-sex marriages even after the Supreme Court recognized them as legal, can be sued for damages, a court ruled https://t.co/V2oQEEiFIo pic.twitter.com/2qoKq4gxRO
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) August 23, 2019
Davis, as HuffPost reported at the time, refused, citing her religious beliefs. She later refused to issue any marriage licenses at all, rather than be compelled to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
A Facebook video later went viral, showing a heated exchange between Davis and a same-sex couple applying for a marriage license, and Davis refusing to issue one.
“Under whose authority are you not issuing licenses?” one of the men asked.
Davis responded, “God’s authority,” before asking the men to leave and then retreating back into her office.
Davis was at one point jailed for five days for refusing to comply with a court order requiring her to issue licenses. She later amended the marriage licenses issued by her county to remove her name from them; she was defeated in her bid for re-election for Rowan County Clerk in 2018.
Davis’ attorney, Mat Staver, suggested that a case such as hers could go before the Supreme Court.
“At the end of the day, she will ultimately prevail. She had no hostility to anyone, given that she stopped issuing all marriage licenses. The broader issue is what accommodation a court should provide someone based on their religious beliefs. It’s a matter of time before such a case goes squarely before the Supreme Court,” he said.