Politics

A judge has once again ruled that Kentucky has to pay the legal fees of those who successfully sued Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis in 2015 after she refused to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The decision comes after Gov. Matt Bevin asked U.S. District Judge David Bunning to reconsider an order for Kentucky to pay the plaintiffs about $224,000 in fees.

In an order issued Monday, Bunning said that the governor’s office “simply — and improperly — re-argued matters that have previously been decided.”

“That Third-Party Defendants wish to avoid liability for Plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and costs hardly renders the circumstances extraordinary,” Bunning wrote.

Davis stopped issuing marriage licenses in the summer of 2015 after the landmark Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage. She said her religious beliefs prevented her from granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples and decided to stop issuing licenses altogether.

Bunning ordered Davis to resume giving licenses to all eligible couples, eventually putting her in jail for five days after she refused to comply.

Bunning ruled in July of this year that Kentucky — not Davis herself or Rowan County — would have to pay attorney fees and costs to couples who were refused marriage licenses by Davis and sued.

Bevin’s legal team fought back, arguing that Rowan County should be held responsible for Davis’ actions, not the state.

“To sanction the Commonwealth of Kentucky for a policy that was solely the province of the Rowan County Clerk would be manifestly unfair,” Bevin’s office wrote in a motion over the summer.

But Bunning ruled that since the state of Kentucky gives county clerks the authority to issue marriage licenses, the state is responsible for Davis’ failure to grant them.

“The Commonwealth of Kentucky is liable for Plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and costs because Defendant Kim Davis acted on behalf of the Commonwealth when she refused to issue marriage licenses,” Bunning wrote.

Then-candidate Matt Bevin appeared with Kim Davis in the midst of her 2015 legal battles. Once he took office he issued an executive order no longer requiring county clerks to sign marriage licenses — an issue supported by Davis.

The state legislature eventually passed a law codifying Bevin’s order.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.