In a ruling handed down on Thursday, a federal appeals court found that Kim Davis, the former county clerk from Kentucky who refused marriage licenses to same-sex couples after marriage equality became law with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell vs. Hodges, did not have qualified immunity.
Consequently, the panel ruled that two couples could sue her personally, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports.
According to Thursday’s U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, Davis violated both couples’ constitutional right to wed.
The court ruled that Davis violated the rights of David Ermold and David Moore, as well as James Yates and Will Smith, by refusing to issue them marriage licenses because she believed same-sex marriage is immoral.
This latest development is part of an ongoing case that has gained national attention.
In March, a judge had ruled that Davis had violated the couples’ rights, which the former clerk then appealed.
After the Supreme Court affirmed marriage equality in 2015, Davis told her office to cease issuing marriage licenses to avoid serving gay couples. According to Davis, marriage should be between a man and a woman. She believes she would violate her beliefs and rights if she issued a marriage license to a queer couple.
When Yates and Smith sought a license, she turned them away five times. Ermold and Moore were denied a license three times by Davis. On their last attempt, Davis said she could not provide them with a license “under God’s authority,” according to court records.
After a judge ordered Davis imprisoned for contempt of court for violating a court order, the deputy clerk issued licenses for the couples while Davis was in jail on contempt charges.
A jury will decide whether Davis will also have to pay for the seven years’ legal fees incurred by the two couples who sued her. Finally, a jury will determine Davis’ liability, which is unknown but likely to total hundreds of thousands of dollars.
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