Judge Rules Clerk Violated Same-Sex Couples' Rights

A jury will decide on damages in Kentucky case
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 6, 2020 6:44 AM CDT
Updated Mar 19, 2022 2:30 PM CDT
Possible Gay-Marriage Threat Emerges at Supreme Court
The Supreme Court is seen in Washington, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, as the justices begin a new term.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(Newser) Updated: A federal judge has ruled that former County Clerk Kim Davis violated the constitutional rights of same-sex couples by refusing to issue marriage licenses to them. US District Judge David Bunning ruled Friday that Davis "made a conscious decision" to violate the rights of two couples who then sued her, USA Today reports. Davis' lawyers had cited her right to religious freedom in their argument. But as an elected official, Davis "cannot use her own constitutional rights as a shield to violate the constitutional rights of others," he wrote. "The only remaining issue is the issue of damages," Bunning added, which he said will be decided by a jury. Our October 2020 story about the Supreme Court's reaction to the case follows:

On the surface, a decision by the Supreme Court on Monday was a victory for advocates of gay marriage: The court declined to take up the appeal of Kim Davis, a former Kentucky county clerk who was sued after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. But a bigger issue might loom. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito agreed with the decision not to take up Davis' case, but only because they said it did not "cleanly present" the key questions about the court's landmark 2015 ruling establishing a constitutional right to gay marriage, reports Fox News. And the justices, both of whom dissented in the 2015 case, Obergefell v. Hodges, seemed to back the idea of the court reconsidering its decision in that case, per the New York Times.

“Obergefell enables courts and governments to brand religious adherents who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman as bigots, making their religious liberty concerns that much easier to dismiss,” Thomas wrote. The court, he added, "created a problem that only it can fix." With the court possibly on the brink of a 6-3 conservative majority, Mark Joseph Stern at Slate writes that "marriage equality is in imminent peril." The ACLU is similarly worried, calling it "appalling that five years after the historic decision in Obergefell, two justices still consider same-sex couples less worthy of marriage than other couples." But at the Washington Post, Robert Barnes points out that Chief Justice John Roberts (who also dissented in the 2015 ruling) and Trump appointees Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch did not join Thomas' opinion. (Read more gay marriage stories.)

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