Federal Court Upholds Award of Attorney’s Fees to Couples Refused Marriage Licenses By Kim Davis

AUGUST 23, 2019

CINCINNATI — A federal appeals court today upheld a lower court ruling awarding $224,000 in attorney’s fees and costs in the case of couples who were refused marriage licenses by Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis. The federal panel agreed with a lower court that the Commonwealth of Kentucky is responsible for paying the award.

“The Court of Appeals correctly found that April Miller and the other ACLU clients prevailed by forcing the former Clerk to abandon her unlawful policy of withholding marriage licenses from the public,” said William E. Sharp, cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Kentucky. “By affirming the sizeable fee award, the Court also sent a strong message to other government officials in Kentucky that it is not only unconstitutional to use public office to impose one’s personal religious views on others, but that it also can be a very expensive mistake.”

“Kim Davis was an outlier who has been replaced by Kentucky voters. Today’s decision brings another form of vindication for the Rowan County couples who continued the good fight long after marriage equality became the law of the land,” said Ria Tabacco Mar, senior staff attorney for the ACLU.

In 2015, then-Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to any eligible couples, same-sex or different-sex, after the freedom to marry was extended to all couples. In response, the ACLU of Kentucky filed a lawsuit on behalf of four Rowan County couples. U.S. District Court Judge David L. Bunning forced the Clerk’s office to abandon its “no marriage license” policy thus allowing the ACLU clients, and others, to receive the marriage licenses to which they were legally entitled.

Judge Bunning subsequently directed the Commonwealth of Kentucky to pay the couples’ attorney’s fees and costs totaling $224,000. Both Rowan County and the Commonwealth of Kentucky appealed the ruling, seeking to avoid responsibility for the fees.