March 2019 Church & State Magazine | People & Events

When Rowan County, Ky., clerk Kim Davis made headlines for refusing to give wedding licenses to same-sex couples, she found plenty of support from state and national politicians.

But Davis, who lost her court case and was kicked out of office by voters in November, seems to be less popular these days. In late January, Gov. Matt Bevin’s attorneys filed legal documents arguing that the state should not have to pay nearly $225,000 in legal fees that accrued during Davis’ court battle.

Davis was sued by four local couples with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 2015. She lost in court, meaning that the ACLU can recover fees it spent on the case. A dispute has erupted over who is responsible for paying those fees – Davis or the state.

Bevin, a Republican and a religious conservative, praised Davis as “an inspiration ... to the children of America,” during her legal battle, reported the Lexington Herald-Leader. But now he’s singing a different tune, insisting that Davis knowingly violated the law and is solely responsible for paying the fees.

“Her local policy stood in direct conflict with her statutory obligation to issue marriage licenses to qualified Kentucky couples,” wrote Bevin’s attorneys in a court filing. “The local policy also undermined the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s interest in upholding the rule of law.”

Added the attorneys, “Davis had an independent and sworn duty to uphold the law as an elected county officer. If fees are awarded, they must be the responsibility of the Rowan County clerk’s office, which should be deterred from engaging in conduct that violates civil rights – and leads to costly litigation.”

Bevin insists that he still supports Davis personally. The Herald-Leader reported that while he was running for governor in 2015, Bevin courted Davis’ supporters and released a video lauding her.

“Amid all the vitriol, all the nastiness, she stood firm. I think it’s beyond question that Kim Davis is an inspiration. Not only to leaders like myself, in the public arena and those outside the public arena, but to my children and to the children of America,” Bevin said during the video.

The matter of the fees is pending before the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Ria Tabacco Mar, senior staff attorney for the ACLU, said the legal wrangling is adding to the fees that will eventually have to be paid.

“The Supreme Court ruled in the matter of marriage equality in the summer of 2015,” Mar said. “Unfortunately, there were a couple of people here and there who chose to resist that decision, including Kim Davis. And here we are still fighting three and a half years later.”