In a significant legal victory, a federal jury in Ashland, Kentucky, has awarded $100,000 to a same-sex couple who filed a lawsuit against former county clerk Kim Davis for her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This case garnered international attention in 2015 when Davis, then the Rowan County clerk, briefly faced imprisonment due to her steadfast refusal to issue licenses based on her personal belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.
David Ermold and David Moore, the plaintiffs in the case, were each awarded $50,000 in damages by the jury after deliberations. Another couple, James Yates and Will Smith, who had also sued Davis, did not receive any damages as ruled by U.S. District Judge David Bunning. It was Judge Bunning who had sent Davis to jail for five days in 2015 for contempt of court.
Davis was ultimately released from jail when her staff began issuing licenses with her name removed from the form. Subsequently, Kentucky’s state legislature enacted a law that removed the names of all county clerks from state marriage licenses.
Last year, Judge Bunning determined that Davis had violated the constitutional rights of the two couples. The recent trials aimed to determine the damages Davis should pay. Davis had argued that qualified immunity should protect her from being sued for damages by the couples. Mat Staver, founder of the Liberty Counsel, the legal firm representing Davis, expressed their intent to appeal the decision and potentially take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, even though the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from Davis’ lawyers in 2020.
Notably, David Ermold, one of the plaintiffs, unsuccessfully ran for the clerk of Rowan County in 2018 when Kim Davis was defeated by another Democrat. This verdict stands as a significant milestone in the ongoing legal battles surrounding LGBTQ+ rights and marriage equality.