Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses for two gay couple, may have to pay them damages.
More than six years ago, after after being jailed for five days for contempt of court, four times married Davis—then a serving clerk in Kentucky— gave numerous tearful interviews, claiming that her refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples David Ermold and David Moore and James Yates and Will Smith had nothing to do with homophobia.
She claimed instead that she was simply acting on “God’s authority.” In this ABC News report on YouTube the Republican denied she’d discriminated against the two couples and said that:
Gays and lesbians had never been an issue for me … it’s all about upholding the will of God.
But she soon found that neither God nor the good folk of Rowan county were prepared to uphold her authority as an elected clerk, earning $80,000 a year, and was tossed out of her post in 2018. She lost her bid for reelection to Democrat Elwood Caudill Jr.
That was not the end of the story—not by a long shot. USA Today reported last week that U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning found that Davis had violated the couples’ constitutional rights.
Bunning’s ruling said:
Ultimately, this Court’s determination is simple—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 two couples, now married, are seeking compensatory and punitive damages as well as legal fees that gradually mounted during a court battle that’s been dragging on for years.
Bunning’s ruling said the plaintiffs’ testimony “at the very least creates a genuine issue of material fact as to whether they are entitled to damages.” For example, Ermold said every time he thinks of his marriage:
I have to think about Kim Davis and the experience, how we were humiliated and treated like less than human beings.
Bunning pointed out that the nation’s highest court determined marriage is a fundamental right under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and it is “readily apparent that Davis made a conscious decision to violate” the rights of the two couples.
Yates testified that damages would compensate for his and Smith’s:
Experience with Davis, the resulting publicity, and the threats that were a result of their interactions with Davis.
The question of whether damages should be awarded will be determined by a jury, per Bunning’s ruling, which said:
It is this Court’s opinion that Davis violated Plaintiffs’ constitutional right to marry and the only remaining issue is the issue of damages.
The Florida-based organization Liberty Counsel, a designated hate organization, is representing Davis and said on Friday it will keep arguing she’s not liable for damages.
Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver, above, said in a statement on Friday:
This case raises serious First Amendment free exercise of religion claims and has a high potential of reaching the Supreme Court.
If, in the end, Davis is forced to cough up, Staver will no doubt squeeze the cash out of the conservative Christians who support her and his vile organization.
Staver, who co-founded Liberty Counsel with his wife Anita, is a thoroughly nasty piece of work. The Southern Poverty Law Center points out some outrageously hateful statements posted on its website. These include:
Homosexual conduct can result in significant damage to those involved who engage in such conduct. There is no evidence that a person is born homosexual. And there is evidence that people can change.
Our culture is being pressured with demands that our homes welcome, our daycares embrace, our schools indoctrinate, our businesses promote, and our laws reward this harmful sexual behavior.
And in Faith and Freedom Radio interview in 2015 Staver said:
If you ultimately promoted same-sex marriage and everyone started to go towards same-sex marriage, what would happen to society? It would just simply cease to exist. Moreover, you’d have rampant increase in diseases.
Already, you have rampant increase in diseases among same-sex activities, specifically men having sex with men. Same-sex marriage, same-sex relationships is destructive to individuals and it’s destructive to our very social fabric.
Staver has also supported the criminalization of homosexuality both in the U.S. and in other countries, stating in one instance that Malawi’s anti-homosexuality laws were in its “own best interests” after the U.S. reportedly withheld monetary aid to the country because of its efforts to outlaw homosexuality.
Over the years, Liberty Counsel has launched other attacks on what it perceives to be threats against Christmas and public morality. In 2000, for example, the Counsel threatened to file a lawsuit against the Jacksonville, Fla., library because staff was handing out certificates in honor of a Harry Potter book release.
Not surprisingly, Liberty Counsel made Davis a cause célebrè for the anti-LGBT right. Staver compared her to a Jew living under Nazi Germany and complained that Christians are persecuted in America as court after court ruled that she had to issue same-sex marriage licenses in accordance with her duties and the ruling of law.
Staver has made that comparison in the past with regard to marriage equality, claiming that respecting gay marriage laws is no different than handing Jews over to the Nazis.