ASHLAND, Kentucky — The infamous Rowan County Clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples “under God’s authority” will find herself before a court again — this time for a jury trial in federal court.
Two couples who were denied a marriage licenses following the landmark Supreme Court ruling which recognized same-sex marriages as a fundamental right, launched a civil suit against Kim Davis, the clerk who denied the couples from receiving their license in 2015.
Following the decision, former Gov. Steve Beshear issued a letter to Kentucky clerks notifying them that they must uphold the court’s decision by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as it was now their fundamental right to do so protected by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
The civil matter has been kicking around in U.S. District Court for nearly seven years now and names couples David Ermold, David Moore and James Yates and Will Smith as plaintiffs.
According to court documents and previous reports, Davis either directly rejected both couples from obtaining a marriage license or ordered her deputy clerks not to do so on numerous occasions by enacting a “policy” in which no marriage licenses were issued at all, in an effort to avoid “discrimination.”
The couples were finally issued a license in September 2015, months after the Supreme Court’s ruling, and while Davis was jailed for contempt of court.
In the suit, plaintiffs are requesting compensatory and punitive damages.
Specifically, David Ermold and David Moore are seeking damages for “mental anguish, emotional distress, humiliation and reputation damages suffered by Davis’ actions.”
During previous testimony, Ermold said “every time I think of my marriage, I have to think about Kim Davis and the experience, how we were humiliated and treated like less than human beings.” Yates also testified he sought compensation due to “the suffering and pain that went on because of what (Davis) did,” according to court documents.
Further compensation would be for resulting publicity and threats received following coverage and interactions with Davis.
Smith testified that he still speaks of his dealings with Davis in therapy and her actions still affect his anxiety to this day.
The Court found the plaintiffs were entitled to pursue punitive damages due to Davis’ “reckless indifference” to the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.
Despite Davis’ argument for qualified immunity and religious exemption, a U.S. District Judge voiced in a memorandum opinion: “It is this Court’s opinion that Davis violated plaintiffs’ constitutional right to marry and the only remaining issue is the issue of damages.”
“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 Court opinion continued.
As stated, all that’s left to decide from a jury is whether Davis’ conduct was justified and what, if any, monetary compensation will be awarded to the two couples.
The parties will appear in U.S. District Court in Ashland on July 11 at 9 a.m.
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