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Kentucky Ordered to Pay Legal Fees for Gay Marriage License Case
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Summary: A federal judge ordered Kentucky to pay the lawyer fees for gay couples that used attorneys for the marriage license fiasco.

A federal judge ordered Kentucky to pay the legal fees for the gay couples fighting a county clerk of marriage licenses two years ago. Taxpayers will pick up the $224,700 in legal fees accrued by plaintiffs as they fought county clerk Kim Davis over marriage licenses for same-sex couples.


U.S. District Judge David Bunning said Davis was not liable for the expense. He overturned a magistrate judge’s ruling that denied money to the plaintiffs because they had not really won the case, the lawsuit had been dropped. Bunning found that the plaintiffs ultimately won because they got an injunction ordering her to issue licenses. He said, “Plaintiffs won the war.”

Days after the United States Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, the Rowan County clerk refused to issue marriage licenses because issuing them to same-sex couples went against her Apostolic Christian beliefs. Her refusal gained national attention as four couples, two of which were gay couples filed suit.

Bunning had issued an injunction at that time ordering her office to keep issuing licenses but she still refused. She ended up serving five days in jail for contempt of court.

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Then-Gov. Steve Beshear was unwilling to make changes to the marriage licenses so once Gov. Matt Bevin took office, he made an executive order changing the licenses. Once Kentucky lawmakers allowed changes to be made to the marriage license forms, she agreed to issue the licenses. The clerk’s name no longer was on the license so she felt comfortable knowing she was not connected to things that went against her beliefs. The couples then dropped the lawsuit once they were able to receive their marriage license, however, they have still been seeking payment for the legal fees.

Bunning ruled that even though the couples were entitled to payment, Davis was not the one responsible. He wrote, “Davis represented the Commonwealth of Kentucky when she refused to issue marriage licenses to legally eligible couples. The buck stops there.” She was acting in her official capacity at the time and the state is primarily responsible for regulating marriage.

Kentucky’s ACLU legal director William Sharp said, “We hope this serves as a reminder to Kentucky officials that willful violations of individuals’ civil liberties, such as what occurred here, will not only be challenged but will also prove costly.” He added, “It is unfortunate that Kentucky taxpayers will likely bear the financial burden of the lawful actions and litigation strategies of an elected official.”

While Davis’ attorney Mat Staver was pleased that his client or her county had to pay the fees, he disagreed that Kentucky was having to pay.

Kentucky can appeal if their outside counsel finds reason in the ruling to go off.

Do you think Davis or the state should be responsible for paying the bill? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

To learn more about Kim Davis and her fight for her beliefs, read these articles:



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