Supreme Court rulings on religious freedom breathe new life into legal battle over Kim Davis’ gay marriage

Former Kentucky County Clerk, who refused to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples and has been called a civil rights abuser, says the conservative-leaning Supreme Court has stepped up its legal fight to erase her name.

Lawyers for Kim Davis, who has fought off civil lawsuits from same-sex couples seeking damages, argued that recent Supreme Court rulings breathe new life into her claim that she was not responsible for her actions as a government employee.

In their latest filing with an appeals court, they cited recent pro-religious Supreme Court rulings in favor of a Christian baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding, a high school coach who prayed on the football field and in favor of religious charities that refused to place adopted children in same-sex homes.

Lawyers for Ms Davis argue the rulings produced “substantial developments in free exercise law”.

The legal arguments were made in a filing this month with the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, where Ms Davis is seeking a full court review of her appeal. The 6th Circuit is now leaning conservative after former President Trump named six judges to the bench.

“Review by the Full Court is therefore necessary to overcome the conflicts of the previous panel and restore loyalty to the Supreme Court […] precedents,” they wrote.

Facing lawsuits from same-sex couples, the former county clerk has been embroiled in legal battles with the courts for about seven years.

Ms. Davis’ legal battle is still ongoing. Her most recent argument is that she should have had a religious exemption as a public servant. Under this exemption, Ms. Davis would not have had to distribute a document in violation of her religious beliefs.

And Ms Davis argues she should not be personally liable for harm to same-sex couples which she has denied, saying she should be granted qualified immunity.

“The First Amendment then required Governor Steve Beshear to accommodate the sincere religious beliefs of Kim Davis. If Governor Beshear had followed the law and granted Kim Davis a religious accommodation, there would have been no case. Thanks to Kim Davis, every clerk in Kentucky is now entitled to a religious accommodation regarding marriage licenses. Kim Davis, the pioneer who led this effort, is also entitled to the same protection,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, which represents Ms Davis.

The latest lawsuit follows a ruling earlier this year that she violated the constitutional rights of same-sex couples by refusing to sign their marriage licenses after the Supreme Court in 2015 ruled same-sex marriage was legal. .

The High Court’s decision on same-sex marriage is known in Obergefell v. Hodges could get a second look from the conservative-leaning Supreme Court.

When the High Court struck down the nation’s abortion law last month, Justice Clarence Thomas noted in his agreement that the court should also be open to revisiting a range of other cases, including the Obergefell case.

Ms Davis was clerk for Rowan County, Kentucky when the 2015 ruling legalized same-sex marriages. She made national headlines for refusing to publish them as a Christian, saying it violated her First Amendment rights.

Ms. Davis went to jail for a few days for her refusal to comply with the Federal Marriage Licensing Order. In his absence, his colleagues issued the licenses without his name on the documents. She had asked the Supreme Court to hear her case at the time, but the justices refused.

She lost her clerical job to a Democrat in a 2018 election.


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