Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’ refusal to issue marriage licenses during the summer of 2015 will cost Kentucky taxpayers $224,000. In a U.S. District Court ruling released Friday, Judge David Bunning awarded attorney fees and costs to the plaintiffs that were refused marriage licenses by Davis.
After the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made same-sex marriage legal in the country, Davis refused to issue marriage licenses. Citing her religious beliefs, she said she couldn’t in good conscience issue the licenses to same-sex couples, and also temporarily stopped issuing the licenses to straight couples, too. While Davis received national attention and shook hands with Kentucky elected officials such as Gov. Matt Bevin, multiple appeals were filed and the law found her in contempt of her duties.
The Eastern District of Kentucky judge ruled that the state, and not exclusively Rowan County, would bear the brunt of the legal costs.
The ruling states that “when Davis made the unilateral decision to adopt a ‘no marriage licenses’ policy, she was acting as an agent of the Commonwealth, not Rowan County. Therefore, Rowan County is not liable for Davis’s actions or Plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees. Davis represented the Commonwealth of Kentucky when she refused to issue marriage licenses to legally eligible couples. The buck stops there.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky represented the four plaintiff couples—two of whom are straight and two same-sex.
“Whether you were a straight couple or a gay couple, she just wasn’t issuing them at all,” Amber Duke of the Kentucky ACLU said. “I think the thought was at the time was that it somehow would not be discriminatory … not just excluding same-sex couples.”
Duke says the ACLU hopes Bunning’s ruling sends a clear message to Kentucky leaders, despite the cost to Kentucky taxpayers.
“We hope that it serves as a reminder to Kentucky officials that violating individual civil liberties, such as what happened in this case, are going to be challenged and they also prove to be costly,” Duke said.
The Rowan County Clerk’s Office did not respond for a request for comment Friday afternoon.