Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic marriage equality ruling in 2015, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis refused to issue any marriage licenses because of her personal, religious opposition to marriage for same-sex couples. The ACLU and the ACLU of Kentucky won a preliminary injunction on behalf of Rowan County couples enabling them to marry.
On June 27, 2015—one day after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling extending the freedom to marry to all couples—Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis announced that her office would no longer issue marriage licenses to any couple. Rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Davis barred all qualified applicants from obtaining licenses to marry in Rowan County.
The ACLU and the ACLU of Kentucky sued on behalf of four couples, two different-sex couples and two same-sex couples. On August 12, 2015, U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning issued a preliminary injunction ordering Davis’s office to resume issuing marriage licenses. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court denied Davis’s requests to stay Judge Bunning’s order, effectively requiring her to resume issuing marriage licenses immediately.
When Davis refused to comply with the court order, Judge Bunning held her in contempt of court and sent her to jail. Davis was released from custody several days later.
In 2017, Judge Bunning ordered the Commonwealth of Kentucky to pay the couples’ attorney’s fees and costs totaling more than $200,000. Both the Commonwealth of Kentucky and Rowan County have appealed, arguing that they should not be liable for attorney’s fees and costs in the case. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral argument on attorney’s fees on January 31, 2019.
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