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County Clerk Found to Violate Same-Sex Marriage License Requirement

May 31st, 2022

A Judge recently held that former County Clerk Kim Davis violated the Constitution by denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In a recently published order, a United States District Judge in Kentucky held that former County Clerk Kim Davis had violated the Constitution by denying marriage licenses to two same-sex couples in 2015. The two couples initially filed lawsuits against the worker in 2015.

The importance of this decision is that it finally settles the question of whether Kim Davis violated the couples’ constitutional rights. No decisions, however, have been made about whether she will remain liable for thousands of dollars in legal fees collected during more than six years of litigation.

County Clerk Kim Davis Refuses to Issue Marriage Licenses

County Clerk Kim Davis spent five days in jail after declining to follow the United States Supreme Court’s Obergfell v. Hodges decision. The clerk previously requested that state lawmakers provide an accommodation for her religious viewpoints so she could refrain from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The woman did not receive her requested accommodation. The state later removed the woman’s signature from marriage certificates.

Summary judgment was denied in the case. Instead, the decision will proceed to trial and ultimately be decided by a jury. The two same-sex couples who sued her for violating their rights request compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney’s fees.

Response to the Decision

The plaintiffs have already expressed support for the decision and happiness that they will finally have their day in court and that justice will be served.

The County Clerk was represented by several organizations including Liberty Counsel, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled as a hate group. An attorney from this group stated that the County Clerk is entitled to protection and accommodation as the result of her sincere religious belief. The attorney also noted that the case raises noteworthy issues about the First Amendment’s free exercise of religion clause.

The Law Behind the Case

A person’s right to marry in the United States has been classified as a fundamental right. The United States Supreme Court has routinely recognized that the right to marry exists in various situations including:

  • Interracial couples. The Supreme Court in 1967 struck down laws prohibiting interracial marriage. States cannot deny marriage licenses to cross-race couples.
  • Pre-existing financial obligations. The United States Supreme Court has struck down statutes prohibiting the issuing of marriage licenses to noncustodial parents who are delinquent in child support.
  • Incarceration. In the late 1980s, the Supreme Court acknowledged that an inmates’ interest in entering into a marriage is constitutionally protected. As a result, in this case, the Supreme Court struck down a Missouri Division of Correction ordinance that required an intimate to provide a “compelling reason” to get married and also receive pre-approval from the superintendent at the prison to get married. 

Tracking Court Decisions Impacting the LGBTQ+ Community

The 2015 Obergefell case is generally recognized as a substantial advancement for the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals. Since then, however, several cases have occurred that are best described as setbacks to LGBTQ+ rights like the Masterpiece Cakeshop. The Universal Life Chuch’s blog focuses on describing the most noteworthy of these cases in a way that explains each side and which can be readily understood by readers.

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