When Rowan County, Kentucky, Clerk Kim Davis refused to issue marriage licenses following the 2015 Supreme Court Decision legalizing gay marriage, she cited “God’s authority” and became a hero to right-wingers, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and then-candidate, now Kentucky governor Matt Bevin, who said: “Without any question I support her.” When Davis was later arrested for refusing to comply with a court order to issue licenses, Bevin even tweeted about visiting the clerk in jail.
— Matt Bevin (@MattBevin) September 8, 2015
Now, after a string of court losses, the time is approaching for her to pay more than $220,000 in attorneys’ fees awarded to plaintiffs who sued Davis and the state of Kentucky over the clerk’s “protest.” These days, Bevin is no longer unquestionably supporting Davis. Instead, the governor’s lawyers have argued in federal court that Davis should pay up, personally if need be.
Oral arguments commenced Thursday in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, weighing, in part, the merits of a legal brief Bevin’s team filed last year insisting Davis should pay the price of her intransigence: “Any fees awarded to [the plaintiffs] cannot be imposed against the ‘Commonwealth of Kentucky,’” Bevin’s lawyers wote. “If the plaintiffs prevailed, they did so against Davis individually or in her official capacity as Rowan County Clerk. Davis unilaterally defied existing law when she created a ‘no marriage licenses’ policy for Rowan County,” the brief continues, adding: “the Rowan County Clerk’s office must be liable for any award of fees arising from her policy.”
Davis — ousted from her clerk job in an election last November — has filed her own legal brief in the case, countering that Kentucky taxpayers must be forced to pay for her religious objections: “The Commonwealth is liable,” her legal team argues, “because Davis acted as a state official for purposes of marriage licensing.”
Despite the court brief filed on behalf of “Matthew G. Bevin, in His Official Capacity as Governor of Kentucky” declaring Davist to be liable, Bevin insists he still personally supports Davis. The governor has sought to blame his lawyers for attempting to stick her with the legal bill. A spokesperson for Bevin called the attorneys “outside counsel retained by the Beshear administration” — referring to Bevin’s Democratic predecessor Steve Beshear — and argued: “if constitutional rights were violated, the taxpayers of Kentucky are not responsible to pay the ACLU’s attorney fees.”