January 31, 2019 / 11:33 PM / 6 months ago

U.S. clerk behind gay marriage furor may be stuck with legal fees

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A U.S. court clerk who made headlines by refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples should be made to pay thousands of dollars for the legal furor that followed, officials said on Thursday.

Kim Davis needs to take financial responsibility and pay $225,000 in legal fees accrued when she was sued by four couples ensnared in the controversy, lawyers for the state of Kentucky argued before an appellate panel of federal judges.

After the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage in June 2015, Davis refused to issue licenses, citing Apostolic Christian beliefs.

Her case drew hundreds of protesters and supporters and worldwide attention to Rowan County in rural Kentucky, and she spent five days in jail for defying a court order to issue the licenses.

Arguing that she should pony up the money, Palmer Vance, an attorney for the state, said in a court document: “Only Davis refused to comply with the law as was her obligation and as required by the oath of office she took.”

A federal judge in 2017 had ruled that taxpayers should pay legal fees for the attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union who represented the couples who sued Davis, saying she had acted on behalf of the state.

The lawsuit was dismissed.

“The Rowan County clerk still hasn’t taken responsibility for her failing to do her job over three years ago,” ACLU senior staff attorney Ria Tabacco Mar told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Davis was defeated last fall in her bid for reelection as county clerk.

The panel of judges has not indicated when it will issue a decision.

A spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for LGBT+ rights, said in an email that Davis should pay.

“Kim Davis used her office to discriminate against LGBTQ people and push a personal, bigoted agenda — all on the government’s dime,” it said.

Although lawyers for Kentucky are arguing that Davis should pay, state Governor Matt Bevin has been publicly supportive of the former clerk, calling her “an inspiration” to children.

Reporting by Kate Ryan; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate chenge. Visit www.trust.org

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