Kentucky clerk who refused same-sex marriage licenses can be sued

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08/26/2019

The Kentucky county clerk who in 2015 gained widespread attention for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples may be sued for damages by two of those couples, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday. In a 3-0 decision, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said Kim Davis can be sued in her individual capacity, though sovereign immunity shielded her from being sued in her former role as Rowan County Clerk. Davis claimed that Obergefell v Hodges, the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision recognizing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, did not apply to her because she stopped issuing licenses to everyone regardless of sexual orientation, and the plaintiffs could have obtained licenses elsewhere. But the appeals court called the Supreme Court decision “as sweeping as it was unequivocal,” and said the respective couples – David Ermold and David Moore, and Will Smith and James Yates – could try to show that Davis acted unreasonably.

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