Kentucky clerk Kim Davis found guilty of violating gay couples’ constitutional rights

Kim Davis

Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, who refused to same-sex marriage licenses, has been found guilty of violating gay couples’ constitutional rights.

Davis first made headlines in 2015 while working as a clerk in Rowan county, Kentucky, when she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples “under God’s authority” following the landmark Supreme Court ruling Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalised marriage equality across the US.

In 2019, a court ruled that same-sex couples David Ermold and David Moore, and Will Smith and James Yates, could sue her for damages.

Davis, a born-again Christian, had tried to argue that she couldn’t be sued because she had immunity. But, judges said that Davis can be individually sued, although she is protected by sovereign immunity from being sued in her former role as Rowan county clerk.

Now, the couples are doing just that.

On Friday (18 March), Kentucky federal judge David Bunning found that Davis had violated the couples’ constitutional rights by denying them marriage licenses.

According to The Hill, the case will likely go to trial to determine the damages owed by Davis to the couples, who are both now married.

“It is readily apparent that Obergefell recognizes Plaintiffs’ Fourteenth Amendment right to marry,” Bunning said in the ruling.

“It is also readily apparent that Davis made a conscious decision to violate Plaintiffs’ right.”

Michael Gartland, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told WKYT that he clients could “not be more happy”.

He said: “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.”

Kim Davis will continue to ‘argue that she is not liable for damages’

Kim Davis was represented by the evangelical Christian law firm Liberty Counsel.

In a statement, the firm said Davis would “continue to argue that she is not liable for damages because she was entitled to a religious accommodation”, and “that a finding of liability would violate the First Amendment Free Exercise of Religion.”

In 2020, Davis became part of a crusade to get same-sex marriage outlawed in the United States.

A brief filed by the Foundation for Moral Law argued Davis’ case, and went even further, asking the Supreme Court to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges altogether.

Matt Clark, the lawyer who wrote the brief, said the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision “could not be logically deduced from the text of the Constitution of found in the longstanding traditions of our people”, and added: “Obergefell not only perverted the Constitution and changed the definition of marriage, but it also jeopardised the religious liberty of Kim Davis and millions of Americans who object to same-sex marriage.”