Federal court orders Kentucky to pay attorneys’ fees in same-sex marriage litigation
Federal court orders Kentucky to pay attorneys’ fees in same-sex marriage litigation

The US District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky [official website] issued an order [PDF] Friday holding the state of Kentucky responsible for attorneys’ fees related to litigation involving a county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Two years after Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis [official website] defied the US Supreme Court [official website] ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges [SCOTUSblog materials] by refusing to issue the licenses, citing her religious beliefs, Judge David Bunning stated in his order that “the Commonwealth of Kentucky is ordered to pay Plaintiffs $222,695 in attorneys’ fees.” The eight attorneys who represented the plaintiffs in the matter of Miller v. Davis [Order, PDF] were awarded fees ranging from $200 to $700 per hour. William Sharp, a legal director for the ACLU of Kentucky [advocacy website], stating that the organization will continue to challenge “willful violations of individuals’ civil liberties,” added: “It is unfortunate that Kentucky taxpayers will likely bear the financial burden of the unlawful actions and litigation strategies of an elected official, but those same voters are free to take that information into account at the ballot box.”

Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex or heterosexual couples arguing that her Christian faith should exempt her from issuing the licenses to same-sex couples. In August 2015, he US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ordered [JURIST report] Davis to issue the licenses, but she continued to refuse [JURIST report]. The following week, the Supreme Court denied [JURIST report] her bid to continue refusing to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples pending an appeal. In September 2015, a federal judge held Davis in contempt of court [JURIST report] for her continued refusal, releasing her after several days in jail. Davis claimed upon returning to work later the same month that she would not block her clerks [JURIST report] from issuing the licenses. Approximately two months later, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin [official website] signed an executive order [JURIST report] to no longer require county clerks’ names to appear on marriage licenses. The order cited the Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act [text, PDF], concluding that placing one’s name on same-sex marriage licenses could substantially burden one’s freedom of religion. Bevin also included in the order a new official certificate of marriage form eliminating the area for the name of the county clerk. In February 2016, the Kentucky Senate [official website] approved Senate Bill 5 [JURIST report], a legislation that would create distinct marriage license forms for opposite-sex and same-sex couples.