Federal judge rules Kim Davis violated couples’ constitutional rights; will go to trial over damages

https://www.wkyt.com/2022/03/18/breaking-federal-judge-rules-kim-davis-violated-couples-constitutional-rights-will-go-trial-over-damages/

 A federal judge has ruled that former Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis violated the constitutional rights of two same-sex couples when she denied them marriage licenses during the summer of 2015.

In an order published Friday afternoon, United States District Judge David L. Bunning of the Eastern District of Kentucky granted summary judgment in a civil lawsuit that the two couples, David Ermold and David Moore, and James Yates and Will Smith, filed against Davis.

 

That settles – without a trial – the question of whether Davis violated their constitutional rights, but no decision has been made yet on whether Davis will be on the hook for the likely hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees accrued over the six-and-a-half years of litigation.

Bunning denied Davis’s request for summary judgment on the question of damages, meaning that decision will still go to trial and ultimately be left up to a jury. The plaintiffs are asking for compensatory and punitive damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, costs and attorneys’ fees.

“The plaintiffs could not be more happy,” Michael Gartland, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told WKYT’s Garrett Wymer. “As the court notes in the decision, this case has been pending since 2015. They couldn’t be more happy that they’re finally going to get their day in court and they’re confident justice will be served.”

In a news release, Liberty Counsel, the organization who represented Davis, noted that the case could go back to the Supreme Court over religious freedom concerns.

“Kim Davis is entitled to protection to an accommodation based on her sincere religious belief,” Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said in the release. “This case raises serious First Amendment free exercise of religion claims and has a high potential of reaching the Supreme Court.” (Read Liberty Counsel’s full response here.)

A status conference is scheduled to be held by telephone on April 1. A trial date will likely be set then.

Davis’s actions during the summer of 2015 turned Morehead into an epicenter of the battle over gay rights following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which recognized a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry.

Davis said she acted “under God’s authority” when she, as the order summarizes, “famously refused to comply with Obergefell, which required her to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.”

David Ermold and David Moore were denied marriage licenses three times, and James Yates and Will Smith were denied licenses four times, before the two couples were granted marriage licenses by a deputy clerk while Davis spent five days in jail for contempt of court.

The two couples sued Davis, saying her actions caused “mental anguish, emotional distress, humiliation and reputation damages.”

The case has gone through several setbacks, appeals and delays over the course of the past six-and-a-half years.

Davis was previously found to have sovereign immunity in her professional capacity as county clerk, but did not have protection from civil liability in her personal capacity. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear her appeal on that issue.

Davis had previously asked state lawmakers for an accommodation for her religious beliefs so that she would not have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but she did not receive one. The state later removed the clerk’s signature from marriage licenses.

Davis lost her bid for re-election in 2018.

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Federal Judge Rules Former Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis Violated Constitutional Rights Of Same-Sex Couples

Federal Judge Rules Former Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis Violated Constitutional Rights Of Same-Sex Couples

Lexington’s CBS News affiliate reports:

A federal judge has ruled that former Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis violated the constitutional rights of two same-sex couples when she denied them marriage licenses during the summer of 2015.

In an order published Friday afternoon, United States District Judge David L. Bunning of the Eastern District of Kentucky granted summary judgment in a civil lawsuit that the two couples, David Ermold and David Moore, and James Yates and Will Smith, filed against Davis.

That settles – without a trial – the question of whether Davis violated their constitutional rights, but no decision has been made yet on whether Davis will be on the hook for the likely hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees accrued over the six-and-a-half years of litigation.

Davis’s lawyer Mat Staver responds:

When Davis petitioned the Supreme Court for review in 2020, the High Court denied review in which the only issue raised was sovereign immunity. However, Justices Thomas and Alito appeared to invite future challenges to the 2015 Obergefell marriage case.

Justice Thomas, joined by Justice Alito, wrote that “[t]his petition implicates important questions about the scope of our decision in Obergefell, but it does not cleanly present them.”

In granting summary judgment for the plaintiffs, Judge Bunning ruled that Davis violated “clearly established” law when she ceased issuing all marriage licenses.

The case will now proceed to trial on the issue of damages, if any. Davis argues that a finding of liability would violate the First Amendment Free Exercise of Religion. This case now clearly presents the free exercise defense and thus could return to the Supreme Court.

Kim Davis is entitled to protection to an accommodation based on her sincere religious belief. This case raises serious First Amendment free exercise of religion claims and has a high potential of reaching the Supreme Court.

2 thoughts on “Federal judge rules Kim Davis violated couples’ constitutional rights; will go to trial over damages

  1. This case raises serious First Amendment free exercise of religion claims

    NO IT DOESN’T!!! This case is a travesty from the very beginning. Kim Davis has all the rights of the Constitution to exercise her religious rights in her PERSONAL life. She had NO authority or rights to exercise them in her position as a PUBLIC employee.

    The fact that people are trying to get around the basic meaning of the Constitution (including “guns”) continues to demonstrate what a me-me-me society we have become.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Nan. Yet in many states they are trying to give her the right to enforce her religious beliefs on other people over their rights whatever they may have been. In your last comment you wrote that it is going to take time for these people to accept the idea that LGBTQ+ are normal and have rights (paraphrased). Well in her case the governor took her side and removed the signature block of her office from the form so she wouldn’t hurt the feelings of her god by doing her job and allowing a segment of the society to use their rights. But denying rights is what the religious do, no matter if it is the right of the gays to marry or women to get abortions / medical care. The only ones with rights is the Christians who can force others to live by their church doctrines.

      Liked by 1 person

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