Two years after Kim Davis first made national headlines, her anti-marriage equality case is closed, at least for now ― but it will come at a cost to local taxpayers.
Davis, who is the county clerk for Kentucky’s Rowan County, steadfastly refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling on marriage equality, citing her religious beliefs. Though Davis was briefly jailed for contempt of court, she went on to become the darling of right-wing conservatives, including former Republican presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee.
On Friday, a federal judge awarded $222,695 in legal fees to the attorneys of four couples ― two same-sex, two opposite-sex ― who were denied marriage licenses by Davis. (The clerk briefly refused to issue licenses to all couples in 2015 as her legal troubles began to mount.) However, U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered the state, as opposed to Davis herself, to pay the fees.
His reasoning was simple. “Davis represented the Commonwealth of Kentucky when she refused to issue marriage licenses to legally eligible couples,” he said, according to The New York Times. “The buck stops there.”
He then added, “The plaintiffs prevailed by every measure of victory. Plaintiffs obtained marriage licenses that could not be revoked. And two of the plaintiff-couples married on those licenses. That is enduring relief. There is nothing more the court could do.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kentucky praised the ruling as a victory for the LGBTQ community, and noted that Davis’s case should serve as an example to other public officials who violate citizens’ rights. Nonetheless, ACLU Legal Director William Sharp said in a statement, “It is unfortunate that Kentucky taxpayers will likely bear the financial burden of the unlawful actions and litigation strategies of an elected official.”
The Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, who represented Davis, said in a statement that his organization was pleased that neither his client nor Rowan County were deemed liable, but nonetheless vowed to appeal the ruling.