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Judge says Kentucky clerk violated same-sex couples’ rights

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A federal judge ruled on Saturday that former Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis violated same-sex couples’ rights when she denied them marriage licenses.

Kim Davis became famous when she refused to issue any marriage licenses after the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized marriage equality. She has been the target of lawsuits since.

The Associated Press reported that U.S. District Judge David Bunning in Ashland issued the ruling Friday in two of the lawsuits involving Davis, the former clerk of Rowan County, and two same-sex couples who sued her. With the decision, a jury trial will still need to take place to decide on any damages the couples could be owed.

Bunning said that Davis “cannot use her own constitutional rights as a shield to violate the constitutional rights of others while performing her duties as an elected official,” according to the news service.

“It is readily apparent that Obergefell recognizes Plaintiffs’ Fourteenth Amendment right to marry,” the judge wrote. “It is also readily apparent that Davis made a conscious decision to violate Plaintiffs’ right.”

Davis had appealed the lawsuits, claiming she had qualified immunity. The appeals went to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2020, the court refused to hear the appeals despite vocal dissents from Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Davis’s lawyers, right-wing firm Liberty Counsel, pointed to those objections saying that the case could return to the top court.

“Kim Davis is entitled to protection to an accommodation based on her sincere religious belief,” Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel founder and chairman, told the AP. “This case raises serious First Amendment free exercise of religion claims and has a high potential of reaching the Supreme Court.”

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