Kim Davis, the former county clerk in Kentucky who said she refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses in 2015 because of her religious beliefs, must pay more than $260,000 in expenses and attorney fees to a couple whom she denied a license, a judge has ruled.
The decision, filed on Dec. 28 in U.S. District Court for Eastern Kentucky, said Ms. Davis must pay David Ermold and David Moore $246,026.40 toward their attorney fees, and $14,058.30 for expenses, a total of $260,084.70.
Judge David L. Bunning wrote that his decision came at the end of a “long and winding road” of litigation. In 2015, Ms. Davis, who was the clerk for Rowan County, Ky., at the time, repeatedly refused on religious grounds to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples, despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriages.
Mr. Ermold and Mr. Moore were in a relationship for 17 years and had been residents of Rowan County for 10 years when they went to the county clerk’s office on July 6, 2015, seeking a marriage license. Ms. Davis refused to issue it, according to their lawsuit, which was filed on July 10.
In addition to the attorney fees and expenses, Ms. Davis was ordered to pay the couple $100,000 in damages, which a jury awarded in September, the judge noted. Judge Bunning said the fees and expenses that the couple had requested were reasonable considering that outcome.
“They sought to vindicate their fundamental right to marry and obtain marriage licenses; and they did so,” he wrote in his decision, which was reported by the The Lexington Herald-Leader on Tuesday.
Liberty Counsel, a conservative legal group in Florida that specializes in religious exceptions cases and that represents Ms. Davis, had argued that the fees were excessive.
In a statement on Tuesday, the organization said it would ask the court to reverse the jury’s verdict, saying there was “insufficient evidence” to award damages. It said that Ms. Davis “is not liable for any damages because she was entitled to a religious accommodation from issuing marriage licenses under her name and authority that conflicted with her religious beliefs.”
Ms. Davis spent 27 years as the county’s deputy clerk before being elected clerk in 2014. She became a symbol of religious opposition to same-sex marriage and was held in jail for five nights in 2015 after she was found in contempt of court for defying a federal order to issue licenses to same-sex couples.
The Rowan County clerk’s office started to issue licenses for same-sex marriages in September 2015 without Ms. Davis’s approval and pursuant to the federal court order. Mr. Ermold and Mr. Moore married that year.