Jury awards $100,000 to Kentucky couple denied marriage license by ex-County Clerk Kim Davis
Sep 13, 2023, 2:58 PM | Updated: 4:02 pm
A federal jury has awarded $100,000 to a Kentucky couple who sued former county clerk Kim Davis over her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Davis, the former Rowan County clerk, drew international attention when she was briefly jailed in 2015 over her refusal, which she based on her belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.
A jury in Ashland, Kentucky, awarded David Ermold and David Moore each $50,000 after deliberating on Wednesday, according to lawyers for Davis. A second couple who sued, James Yates and Will Smith, were awarded no damages on Wednesday by U.S. District Judge David Bunning.
Bunning sent Davis to jail for five days in 2015 after holding her in contempt of court. She was parodied on Saturday Night Live and embraced by conservative politicians who traveled to Kentucky to support her.
Davis was released only after her staff issued the licenses on her behalf but removed her name from the form. Kentucky’s state legislature later enacted a law removing the names of all county clerks from state marriage licenses.
Bunning ruled last year that Davis violated the constitutional rights of the two couples. In the ruling, Bunning reasoned that Davis “cannot use her own constitutional rights as a shield to violate the constitutional rights of others while performing her duties as an elected official.”
The trials held this week were held to decide damages against Davis. The former clerk had argued that a legal doctrine called qualified immunity protected her from being sued for damages by the couples.
Mat Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, which represented Davis in the case, said in a release Wednesday they “look forward to appealing this decision and taking this case to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from Davis’ lawyers in the case in 2020.
Ermold and Moore had a highly publicized showdown with Davis at the Rowan County clerk’s office in 2015 after they asked for a marriage license with news cameras surrounding them. When she refused, Moore asked under whose authority was she acting. She replied, “under God’s authority.”
Ermold unsuccessfully ran for clerk of Rowan County in 2018, when Davis was defeated by another Democrat. Before running, Ermold and Moore returned to Davis’ office to file to run for clerk, and Davis, who handled election filings, helped Ermold during a brief but cordial meeting.