Gay couple can sue Kim Davis for damages, appeals court rules
ROWAN COUNTY, Kentucky, May 3, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — A federal appeal court has revived a homosexual couple’s claim for damages against Kentucky clerk Kim Davis for refusing to sign their marriage licence.
In August 2016, U.S. District Judge David Bunning tossed out as moot three lawsuits against Davis, citing Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s executive order that allowed marriage licences to be printed without the issuing clerk’s name on them.
A clerk in Rowan County and a born-again Apostolic Christian, Davis was willing to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples but had asked for a religious exemption not to sign her name to them, because she believed doing so would endorse homosexuality.
But in a May 2 ruling, three judges on 6th U.S. Circuit Appeal Court reversed Bunning’s decision on the lawsuit brought against Davis by homosexual couple David Ermold and David Moore.
They ruled Ermold and Moore were not suing against a general policy but were seeking “damages for a particularized harm allegedly suffered by a specific set of plaintiffs.”
According to precedent, claims for damages are “retrospective in nature — they compensate for past harm. By definition, then, such claims cannot be moot,” the ruling noted.
The appeal court reinstated Ermold and Moore’s claim, which now goes back to Bunning.
The appeals court decision also says the lower court should rule on what defense Kentucky’s 2013 Religious Freedom Restoration Act allows Davis, given the Supreme Court’s June 2015 Obergefell decision giving homosexual couples a constitutional right to “marry.”
Liberty Counsel, which represents Davis, is ready to make the case in court for her religious liberty.
The appeal ruling “keeps the case alive for a little while, but it is not a victory for the plaintiffs,” said Liberty Counsel’s founder Mathew Shaver in a prepared statement emailed to LifeSiteNews.
“The court is allowing Judge Bunning to rule on Kim Davis's qualified immunity defense and other defenses, including the Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” noted Shaver.
“We are confident we will prevail."
Bunning is the same judge who jailed Davis for contempt of court in September 2015, three months after Obergefell became the law of the land.
Davis had asked Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear for religious accommodation, but he refused.
As a consequence of what she described as a “heaven or hell decision,” Davis spent six days in jail rather than comply with Bunning’s order she sign marriage licenses for homosexual couples.
Her resistance ignited a media storm, as well as provoking a national backlash from Christians who uphold natural marriage.
On September 8, Bunning ordered Davis’ release from jail on the condition she not “interfere in any way” with the issuing of marriage licenses for homosexual couples.
Davis returned to work September 14 after agreeing to let others in the county office issue marriage licenses that didn’t have her name on them to homosexual couples.
Two months later, Beshear was voted out as Kentucky’s governor. Shortly after Bevin took office in December 2015, he signed the executive order that the clerk’s name not be required on the marriage certificate.
Bevin did so to "ensure that the sincerely held religious beliefs of all Kentuckians are honored,” he told media at the time.
In June 2016, the Kentucky legislature and senate approved a bill to remove county clerks’ names, personal identification, and authorization from state marriage licenses.
Davis then dropped her request for religious accommodation, stating she was satisfied the bill provided protection of conscience.
Davis was elected to her position in November 2014. She has worked in the Rowan County Clerk’s office for nearly three decades. Her mother, who worked there for 36 years, is said to have been the impetus for Davis’ conversion to Christianity, when she asked her daughter just before she died in 2011 to go to church.