ASHLAND, Kentucky (LifeSiteNews) – Former Rowan County, Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis must pay $100,000 to a same-sex couple to whom she refused to issue a marriage license in 2015 as part of an ongoing religious freedom case that the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to resolve.
In 2015, after the Supreme Court’s controversial Obergefell v. Hodges ruling that forced all 50 states to recognize same-sex “marriage,” Davis declared that she would cease issuing marriage licenses, arguing that her required signature on the documents would constitute a personal endorsement of homosexual unions that violated her Christian beliefs.
Her resistance to the new normal has persisted for years, despite public pressure from lawsuits, judges, and politicians alike, and even being jailed for contempt of court. Davis lost reelection to her position in 2018 by approximately 700 votes.
Then-Republican Gov. Matt Bevin partially resolved the situation by issuing an executive order to remove county clerks’ names from marriage licenses entirely, and the homosexual couples turned away ultimately obtained licenses from other clerks, but one such couple, David Ermold and David Moore, filed lawsuits against Davis in both her official and personal capacities, the latter of which was allowed to proceed. In late 2020, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Davis to intervene and stop the lawsuit.
Last year, U.S. District Judge David Bunning ruled that Davis had violated the couple’s constitutional rights, and last week an Ashland jury awarded Ermold and Moore $50,000 each, the New York Post reported. By contrast, the jury in a similar case brought against Davis by another couple, James Yates and Will Smith, awarded no damages.
“I can only say that our clients were gutted and even more dejected,” attorney for the second couple Rene Heinrich told NPR. “I find it shocking that a jury would award zero dollars for their violation of their constitutional rights.”
Liberty Counsel, which is representing Davis, contends that she is not liable for any damages because she was entitled to a religious accommodation under both the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Kentucky law, and that the plaintiffs suffered no damages because throughout the process they were free to seek marriage licenses from other county clerks.
Liberty Counsel notes that part of the case for damages was that Ermold was supposedly “terminated from the University of Pikeville” over the case, but the school’s “Human Resource Director testified that was not true and that Ermold’s position was downsized along with other positions. Losing their basis to allege damages, the Ermold plaintiffs then changed gears during the trial to allege they should receive damages for hurt feelings.”
The group also confirmed that they intend to appeal the verdict.
“We look forward to appealing this decision for Kim Davis,” said Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mat Staver. “We will argue religious accommodation under the First Amendment, and other state and federal laws. We will also argue that Obergefell v. Hodges was wrongly decided and should be overturned. Yesterday’s jury verdict has paved the way for this case to go the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Pope Francis met with Davis in 2015 over her ordeal, reportedly encouraging her to “stay strong” in her stand for the “human right” of “conscientious objection.” However, the Vatican later attempted to downplay the meeting and suggest it did not represent formal support of her position.