Gay couples who were refused marriage licences by anti-gay Kentucky court clerk Kim Davis can seek damages, a federal court said on Tuesday.
The federal 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday brought back a lawsuit seeking damages from the clerk who became infamous after refusing to marry gays back in 2015.
The court went against a lower court’s ruling that David Ermold and David Moore could not claim against Davis.
The ruling last July had said the couple could not seek damages from Davis, despite that she refused to sign marriage licences brought by same-sex couples.
Ermold and Moore had got a licence eventually, a three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit said they can still sue over the initial refusal by Davis.
“The district court’s characterization of this case as simply contesting the ‘no marriage licenses’ policy is inaccurate because Ermold and Moore did not seek an injunction-they sought only damages,” wrote Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore.
“The record does not support an argument that (their) damages claims are insubstantial or otherwise foreclosed.”
The case goes back to US District Judge David Bunning in Kentucky.
But Liberty Counsel attorney Matt Staver, who represents Davis said: “The ruling keeps the case alive for a little while but it is not a victory for the plaintiffs.” Adding: We are confident we will prevail.”
The attorney for Ermold and Moore, Michael Gartland, however; said Tuesday’s ruling was a “no-brainer”.
He said the couple are seeking punitive and compensatory damages.
“Do I think it’s a million dollar case? Probably not,” Gartland said when interviewed.
“The next step will be to go to discovery and go to trial, where I am confident we will obtain a judgment against Davis.”
Rowan County clerk Kim Davis famously refused to issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2015, after the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in all 50 states.
Four couples (two same-sex ones and two straight ones) sued Davis over her actions, with help from the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union).
That lawsuit was resolved last year after the Republican Governor of Kentucky changed state law to eliminate the need for clerks like Davis to authorise licenses.
As well as ending the legal battle, the Governor’s actions sparked a dispute as to who should fit the legal bill for the case – with the ACLU attempting to reclaim costs from Davis.
However, earlier this year a judge rejected the ACLU’s bid to reclaim $230,000 in legal costs, on the grounds that they were not technically a “prevailing party” due to the resolution of the case.
This meant that Davis, who had pro bono support from the anti-LGBT Liberty Counsel, does not have to pay costs despite being the one in violation of the original law.