Appeals Court Determines Kim Davis Can be Sued for Damages

by Rodney Pelletier  •  •  May 3, 2017   

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CINCINNATI, Ohio ( - A federal court is ruling that Kim Davis — a Kentucky county clerk who denied same-sex couples marriage certificates in 2015 — can be sued for damages, despite the case being dismissed by a federal judge.

Plaintiffs David Ermold and David Moore are alleging their civil rights were violated when Davis refused to issue them a marriage certificate in 2015. Even though they eventually received a marriage certificate and the law was changed to accommodate Davis' religious right to refuse to cooperate in so-called same-sex marriage, they believe they still deserve damages.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati concurred in a May 2 ruling. Court documents maintain Ermold and Moore filed a federal civil-rights complaint on July 10, 2015, seeking damages from Davis. When Judge David Bunning dismissed their lawsuit against Davis in August 2016, the appeals court asserts it did not address the plaintiffs' case for damages.

The court notes, "The record does not support an argument that (their) damages claims are insubstantial or otherwise foreclosed."

In September 2015, Davis spent five days in jail owing to her refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. A fervent Christian, she declared:

To affix my name or authoritative title on a certificate that authorizes marriage that conflicts with God's definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman violates my deeply held religious convictions and conscience. For me, this would be an act of disobedience to my God.

The record does not support an argument that (their) damages claims are insubstantial or otherwise foreclosed.

Kentucky's then-governor, Democrat Steve Beshear, refused to do anything to help Davis. In a statement, his lawyers called her position "absurd," "forlorn" and "obtuse."

After a surprise landslide victory in November 2015, Republican Matt Bevin won the governorship of Kentucky and issued an executive order removing the county clerk's signature from all future marriage licenses. In July 2016, the Kentucky legislature enacted Senate Bill 216, enshrining Gov. Bevin's executive order into state law and effectively exonerating Davis from any violation.

David Ermold speaking with Kim Davis at the county clerk's office in 2015

In August 2016, Judge David Bunning dismissed three lawsuits against Davis, commenting, "In light of these proceedings, and in view of the fact that the marriage licenses continue to be issued without incident ... there no longer remains a case or controversy before the Court."

In November 2016, The American Civil Liberties Union attempted to make an example of her by suing her for over $200,000 in legal fees. The organization admitted it was trying to "send a message," declaring "willful violations of individuals' rights will be costly." In March 2017, a federal judge threw out the case.

Davis' legal representative, Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel, comments, "The ruling keeps the case alive for a little while but it is not a victory for the plaintiffs." He adds, "We are confident we will prevail."


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