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Appeals Court To Decide Who Should Pay Legal Fees In Kim Davis Case

Ryland Barton

The court battle continues over who has to pay attorney’s fees for gay couples who sued Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis for refusing to issue marriage licenses to them.

Davis refused to issue marriage licenses in the wake of the landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2015 that legalized same-sex marriage — she spent five days in jail as a result.

On Thursday, a three-judge panel on the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in two cases — one over who is responsible for the nearly $225,000 in legal fees and the other over whether Davis is immune from paying the bill herself.

Gov. Matt Bevin has praised Davis in the past, but during court proceedings has distanced himself from the former clerk’s actions.

Gene Vance, an attorney representing Bevin, argued that Rowan County — not the state — should be responsible for paying the fees.

“In this instance, for the taxpayers of the Commonwealth to bear these costs when the actions were those of one county clerk would be manifestly unjust,” Vance said.

A lower court ruled in 2017 that the state would be responsible for paying the fees associated with the Davis case, but Bevin appealed the decision.

The money would go to pay expenses for the four couples who sued Davis for refusing to issue marriage licenses to them in the summer of 2015.

Mary Ann Stewart, an attorney representing Rowan County, said that the state should be held responsible for Davis’ actions because “marriage is essentially and absolutely a state function.”

"The county cannot take any type of action over the county clerk, the state can,” Stewart said.

Davis lost a bid for re-election last year.

Her attorney, Roger Gannam of religious liberty law firm Liberty Counsel, said that Davis’ actions in 2015 were legal because couples could have gone to other county clerk's offices to get married.

“Unless a person is entirely or largely prevented from marrying or cut off from a large percentage of the population, then there is no direct and substantial burden,” Gannam said.

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