A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that Kim Davis, the former county clerk who was briefly jailed in 2015 after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because it violated her personal beliefs, can be sued for damages by two of the couples who were denied licenses.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati decided in a 3-0 ruling that the two same-sex couples – Will Smith and James Yates, and David Ermold and David Moore – could not sue Davis in her former capacity as a county clerk, but could sue her for damages as an individual.
Davis argued that she had not been acting in violation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell v Hodges decision that awarded gay couples the right to marry because she had also been refusing to issue licenses to other couples as well.
However, Circuit Judge Richard Griffin wrote in his opinion Friday that “in short, plaintiffs pleaded a violation of their right to marry: a right the Supreme Court clearly established in Obergefell.”
“The district court therefore correctly denied qualified immunity to Davis,” he added.
The Hill notes:
After Davis denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples following the Supreme Court ruling, she was sued by several couples and ordered by a judge to issue the licenses. She was jailed not long after for refusing to comply with the ruling.
Lawmakers in Kentucky later changed the law in response to her refusal to allow marriage licenses to be issued without clerks having to sign their names on the documents. Davis has since retired after losing her bid for reelection last year, Reuters reported.
“At the end of the day, she will ultimately prevail. She had no hostility to anyone, given that she stopped issuing all marriage licenses,” Mat Staver, the founder of Liberty Counsel, a group that represented Davis, told the outlet.
“The broader issue is what accommodation a court should provide someone based on their religious beliefs,” he added. “It’s a matter of time before such a case goes squarely before the Supreme Court.”