In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in the United States. Kim Davis, a county clerk in Kentucky at the time, refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on her religious beliefs. She said she was acting "under God's authority" when she refused to fulfill her duties.
Davis became a hero to many conservatives and Christians. Among those who publicly supported her was Matt Bevin. At the time, Bevin was running for governor of Kentucky. He went on to win the election for governor and has continued to serve since.
Davis unsuccessfully fought for her religiously-motivated bigotry. Four couples, with help from the ACLU, sued Rowan County and the Commonwealth of Kentucky. A district judge ordered Davis and her office to issue marriage licenses. Davis refused, and was held in contempt of court. She ended up spending a few days in jail as a result. In the end, Davis lost the case. She also lost her position as county clerk when she was defeated by a Democrat challenger in the 2018 election.
In 2017, a judge ruled that the Commonwealth of Kentucky was responsible for covering the nearly $225,000 in legal fees and court costs that the four couples incurred as a result of their suit.
And now, a year and a half later, things have taken a rocky turn for Davis and her previously supportive governor pal.
Back in 2015, Bevin said things like, "I absolutely support her willingness to stand on her First Amendment rights. Without any question I support her." But now, he (and his lawyers) are not quite as supportive.
Following the 2017 ruling that the state of Kentucky was obligated to pay the legal fees, Bevin appealed. He appealed on the grounds that Davis acted alone, without state support, and so it was the responsibility of the Rowan County Clerk's office to pay the fees. This has led to a back-and-forth over who is responsible.
Last week, arguments began in the Sixth Court of Appeals, to determine who will ultimately be responsible. Will it be Kentucky (and by extension, Kentucky taxpayers) or Rowan County (Rowan County taxpayers) or Davis herself?
That is what it comes down to, but now, with all the ensuing legal battles that have been trying to determine who owes the fees for the original court battle, whoever gets saddled with the burden will also be responsible for the additional costs of these latest court cases. Ouch...
One of Bevin's attorneys, Palmer Vance II, wrote that Davis' “local policy stood in direct conflict with her statutory obligation to issue marriage licenses to qualified Kentucky couples. The local policy also undermined the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s interest in upholding the rule of law."
Bevin, through a representative, has said that he still supports Davis and her actions... but, he is still being represented in court by the lawyers trying to pin the financial responsibility on Davis.
Interestingly, that representative, Steve Pitt, said that, "The federal court has held that she violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights and that the state must pay to the ACLU legal fees incurred as a result. Our outside counsel have only argued, given the court’s ruling, that if constitutional rights were violated, the taxpayers of Kentucky are not responsible to pay the ACLU’s attorney fees."
So, in other words, yes, Bevin supports her still, but not enough to foot her bill. She's on her own when it comes down to the legal fees.
We will have to wait to see how this shakes out. It is unfortunate that either taxpayers of the entire state of Kentucky, or just Rowan County, may end up paying these legal fees, but that is what happens when elected officials choose to adhere to their small-minded religious beliefs instead of doing the jobs they were elected to do.